Night Fall: A Shocking Tale of Terrorism

Image courtesy Google Images

What do conspiracy theories, eyewitness accounts, and well-developed reoccurring characters all have in common? For those of you who read my blog often, you’re probably thinking this is another post about Dan Brown, which is a good guess, but actually this time I want to talk about the book Night Fall.

Nelson Demille (photo courtesy Google Images)

Night Fall, by Nelson Demille, is a fictional mystery novel centered around the events of the plane crash of Flight TWA 800 off the coast of New York. The plane crash did occur on July 17, 1996. The facts of the event were detected by over 200 eyewitness accounts, as well as CIA animated simulations, and Airline experts on how the crash occurred. The problem surrounding this news media frenzy is that the CIA generated module for how the plane crashed (declared technical malfunction due to an exploding gas tank) varied greatly from what 200 eyewitnesses saw (a streaming light coming up from the water, such as that of a missile). Therein, we have our conflict. There are at least six different theories regarding what happened to Flight TWA 800 ranging from a covered up friendly fire drill training gone wrong to explosive gas bubbles.   As a reader, you’ll follow along all six options as Detective John Corey unearths them.

National Geographic News Coverage on the Crash Simulation Theory:

The protagonist, John Corey, is a former New York Policeman, recently transferred to the FBI co-branch of detectives for the Anti-Terrorist Task Force. His wife is Kate Mayfield, an FBI agent and former lawyer. He couldn’t be more of a ticking time-bomb and she’s all about the books. Now, Kate was one of the interviewers for the eyewitnesses of the accident, and every year, on that mournful day, Kate pays her respect to the families who lost loved ones on that plane. A few choice words about the theories surrounding this particular plane crash, and her maverick of a husband is now sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.

This book will shock you. It’s both a gripping tale, and a surreal look at the possibilities and inaccuracies that lie within our government’s anti-terrorist actions. I will admit, when my book club first picked this title out and we all asked “what’s it about?” The one word answer “terrorism” didn’t exactly get us all jumping up and down. But I would absolutely recommend this book.

First, the writing is impeccable. Night Fall is the third book Demille uses Detective John Corey in, though the books do not read in a sequential order, he’s certainly found a niche his readers like in Corey’s snarky backhanded compliments and repetition for getting into trouble for all the right reasons. If you were ever in a situation where you needed a good detective, you’d want John Corey on your side. He has a knack of making you like and dislike all the characters he runs into, which in my opinion makes them all very real. Demille writes in a style that is fast paced and first person, so you learn along with his character.

His book is based on the drastic theories, news coverage, and eyewitness reports of what occurred on Flight TWA 800 that caused the death of 230 passengers and crew members.  It makes the suspense of this novel all the more gripping, because though you’re reading a work of fiction, this book is widely researched and makes no clear accusations of what really happened, yet challenges the original government ruling of the accidental exploding gas tank.  Demille has a history of leaving the endings of his novels unclear or open for interpretation, and Night Fall is no exception.  I will say, if you’re someone who likes to skip ahead and read the ending of a book before you get there, DON’T.  You do not want to read ahead in this book, and you will understand where he goes with the book as you go through, so don’t ruin it by cheating!

Ultimately, what I love about a book is whether it fosters discussion, and Night Fall does this.  With a topic such as government cover-ups and terrorism, it’s difficult not to have an opinion.  But it’s not a one-sided argument.  There is no clear right or wrong answer that any persons involved in this investigation could have provided, at least in my opinion.  It may be simple to look back and say, they should have done this, but we are also all on a heightened awareness and sensitivity regarding terrorism now.  Where can we possibly draw the line of what the public needs to know and what is necessary to keep private for internal operations?

More Info/Resources:

The Flight 800 Investigation

A Conspiracy Theory: What Really Happened

15 Years Later:  The Mysteries of Flight TWA 800

Have any of you read Night Fall?  Do you remember the crash of Flight TWA 800?  What’s your opinion on what really happened on July 17, 1996?  How does the discussion about terrorism differ from then to now?  What changes do you see?

14 responses

  1. I love this type of book. Theories and possibilities, especially with government involvement and I can tell from your review that Deville comes at it from the right angle. I’ll be checking this one out for sure.

    On your questions. I’ve always been of the belief that the public is safest when told “we are taking action to protect you from terrorism” without being told how. See, if we, the public are told how, then 300 million opinions get interjected and anyone watching our very open news will know to prepare for the defenses we placed against them. Catch 22. The grand point is that the country can only put its best effort in. Be happy in the knowledge that the ones we trust to protect us are doing there best, but that nothing is perfect and once in a while something will happen or go wrong. Just a fact of life.

    Excellent review, Jess 🙂

    1. So glad you liked it Gene. This book was really thought provoking, I recommend it for book clubs or reading with friends cause it’ll spark a lot of conversation.

  2. Wow! I never knew about any of this. What a great read!
    Thanks, Jess.

    1. Pretty eye opening isn’t it? I was very glad I read it.

  3. I remember the crash well. This is one of those disasters that really terrifies me, because some of those passengers and crew must have been alive right up until the plane hit the water. I try to imagine what that must have been like, and I have to force myself to stop thinking about it.

    Thanks for this post, Jess. I’m going to look for the book the next time I’m in a bookstore.

    1. It’s definitely a very well written and thoughtful book. And I like that Demille doesn’t make any certain claims, but lets the reader interpret. I hope you like the book! And I agree with you, it’s so tragic to think of this event and the people aboard. They still have a large memorial service with friends and family members each year. I watched one of their services on youtube and even years after, it was so very emotional. My heart goes out to the victims and their families.

  4. I love this author and I do remember the crash. It was horrifying at the time and the thought of terroism was frightening. I enjoy the author’s technique of leaving it up to the reader to decide what’s possible and what could not possibly have happened.
    There are several good novels about terrorism out…one is Daniel Silva’s The Messenger. Loved it and could see how easily the story could truly have happened.
    You give great reviews, Jess!

    1. Thanks for sharing another great author for me to check out. I agree Demille is excellent; looking forward to checking out other works. Do you have a favorite?

      P.S. I just started The Doctor’s Lady!

      1. Oh cool! Let me know how you like it. My favorite mystery/thriller authors are Jeffrey Deaver and Michael Connelly. My mom, who reads about 4 boooks a week, raves about Clive Cussler. I guess they’re great action mysteries and most take place on the ocean.
        Of Demille’s books, I haven’t read enough to choose a favorite, but I absolutely devoured The Lion and The Lion’s Game! They were some of the best work i’ve ever read.

  5. […] Witkins brings us a stellar review of Night Fall (a shocking tale of terrorism) by Nelson […]

  6. I loved this book and the ending was wow!

    Hey, just so you know, this post came through the subscription service linked to your former blog (jesswords10), so I couldn’t access it from the email.

    1. Yep, sorry for the hassle, I changed my URL and thought everything would transfer…yah nope. This is an awesome read! And Demille’s son helped him place the ending where he did. Wow indeed.

  7. Hi Jess. Thanks for the excellent review. I have just watched with interest the NG clip you included. After reading the book, I find myself wondering if this is a ‘cover-up’, or if it’s factual…for instance, could they have really found a frayed wire? All interesting food for thought, certainly. I have now also read DeVille’s Plum Island, The Lion’s Game, and am currently reading Wild Fire. The Lion’s Game is fantastic! Great blog, by the way!

    1. Thanks Dorie. My mom picked up The Lion’s Game at Pearl Books when she came to visit a bit ago, so I’m excited to hear if she likes John Corey, especially since you told me the other night how rough he sounds in the early books. I’ll have to get that from her when she’s done.

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