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.
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?
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?