Cecilia made the hardest decision of her life moments before she stepped onto the plane that would bring her world crashing down. Her marriage was failing before even getting off the ground, and her desperate need to start over has driven her to abandon her family. Now, as her plane plummets toward the ground, she wishes she had given her son one last kiss good-bye. As tragedy meets mystery, Cecilia and three others, each struggling with their own secrets, become connected on one fateful night when lives are lost in the sky and on the ground.
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After We Fall
by Emma Kavanagh
June 2, 2015
I started this book, read the first chapter, and just put it down for a couple of weeks. I just wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the read. However, I picked it back up and once I got into the book, I pretty much didn’t put it down. I received a copy of the book from the publisher, by way of Net Galley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
A central event like a plane crash has definitely been done before. But not for one minute did I get a deja vu moment while reading this book. It’s pretty much an ensemble piece, rather than just a couple of main characters, although if I had to pick one it would be Cecilia, the flight attendent who is one of only thirteen passengers that survive the crash. She’s one of the most complex characters that I have read in a very long time. She was in the midst of leaving her husband and toddler son, with the intention of never coming back. She was on her last flight, and is almost as broken inside herself, as the people that died on the flight were broken. Her husband is Tom, a homicide detective and primary parent to Ben, the couple’s child. There is no love in this marriage and really there never was. He is working on a young woman’s murder case, and this secondary story is really as major a story line as the plane crash is in this read.
So what started out with a plane crash, evolves into a full on murder investigation, making this a mystery on two levels, why did the plane crash? and who killed the woman and why? Lots of other characters are involved, the most major ones being the pilot’s daughter and son, Freya and Richard-and their mother. The father of the dead young woman, Jim, is a retired police detective, and just makes Tom even more determined to find the murderer.
This was one of those books that although starts out with a plane crash, steadily moves forward to a much bigger conclusion-the kind that makes the reader move through the book just knowing there is so much more to the story than what you originally think. It has twists and turns, and quite frankly it did surprise me-I went back and forth about the who done it part many times. It’s always a good mystery for me when I can’t figure the end out easily.
I found the book to be extremely well written, pulling together a story that linked all the parts and characters together amazingly. At the time this was first released under the name Falling, it was the debut for this author-who I think has at least one other book out now as well. That the author’s debut book is this well thought out and plotted is just outstanding. I highly recommend this book to mystery fans, and anyone that just enjoys a good story. It’s not necessarily an adult read, but due to a violent death(plus the plane crash deaths) and some mentions of sexual situations-although not shown, I would still suggest it for ages 15+.
Cecilia: Thursday, March 15, 6:08 p.m.
A shrieking of wind, screeching of metal as the plane ripped apart, the wicked cold tearing at her throat. Cecilia Williams gripped the seat, fingers burning with pain. She tried to close her mouth, but the sound pried it open, stealing her breath. A giant’s hand pinned her to the bulkhead. Tumbling, tumbling…she couldn’t determine the floor from the ceiling.
She couldn’t see the people. Just black night air where there should have been a plane, space where there should have been seats. She squeezed her eyes shut. If she leaned this way, she could pretend she was sleeping.
The plane almost hadn’t taken off at all. It had been touch and go. The air had thickened days ago, gray clouds massing as temperatures plummeted far below the March average. Then the snow, thick and bulbous. A blizzard, wrapping around Cardiff Airport, climbing into mountainous drifts. Flights canceled one after the other. Cecilia had no reason to believe that this flight would be any different. Except that it would be, because it had to be. Cecilia had sat in the crew room, sipping harsh black coffee, beads of sweat breaking out beneath her blunt-cut bangs as a potted ficus continued to wilt and die in the fierce heat charging from the radiators. She had pulled at her turquoise polyester jacket, letting it drop to the floor beside her. She hated that uniform. Saw the other flight attendants looking at the crumpled pile. Drank her coffee. She wouldn’t wear that uniform again.
“Gonna cancel it, you think?” The copilot looked at her, running knuckled fingers through his curtained hair. Rope thin, all teeth and nostrils. He was new, coming in as she was going out. Cecilia didn’t know his name, didn’t really see the point in learning it, not now. She had handed in her notice. This would be her final flight. She stared out the window, watched the falling snow. She didn’t answer.
“They’ll cancel,” the copilot mumbled, almost like he was whispering a prayer. “They’ll cancel.”
The pilot, Oliver Blake, glanced up at him, then back down. Staring at the ground. Jaw tight.
Made everyone tetchy, a night like this.
The plane kept tumbling, over, over. Seemed to be no end to it. There were things she should be doing as the wind whipped past her, the ground rushing closer. Her arms wanted to fold themselves over her head, mouth to scream, “Brace!” But she couldn’t move her arms and she couldn’t move her mouth, and the rest of her just didn’t care. It would be over soon, anyway.
They had waited in the crew room, roll-on cases lining the wall in a chain gang. Cecilia’s at the end, bigger than the rest. She blew on her coffee and thought about her diploma. She’d left it in a frame, displayed in the study that they used to hang laundry. She should have brought it. But then the interview wasn’t for another month. Ground crew. She would be based out of London again, if she got the job. There would be a lot of applicants, would always be a lot of applicants for a job like that. But she had worked there before, and she knew people, and hopefully that would be enough. It didn’t really matter about the diploma; she would have to speak to Tom again. Eventually.
“We’ll never fly tonight. No chance.” The copilot was working his jaw, teeth grinding against the hum of the radiators.
Cecilia had never thought she would want to go back to the chaos and the London smog and the phone-booth-red uniforms. Never thought that at thirty years old she would pack up her life, walk out on her husband and her almost three-year-old son. Something stuck in her throat, almost choking her. She had looked out the window at the snow and tried not to think about that.
She wondered if Tom knew that she had left, if he had found the closet door hanging open, all of her most prized belongings gone. She should have left a note. Should have done that at least.
The crew room phone rang, and they all looked up. Oliver pushed himself to his feet, trudging to the phone as though walking through a snowdrift.
He hung up the phone, turning back.
She hadn’t kissed her son good-bye. She should have kissed him good-bye.
Then it was all hurry, hurry, hurry. She had grabbed her bags, a quick slick of lipstick even though her fingers were shaking, pulled her skirt straight, then click, clack, click, out into the terminal. Passengers’ heads bobbed up like meerkats, the whisper running through the terminal in a bow wave behind them. Cecilia raised her chin and looked straight ahead.
Suddenly there was no time. It was a narrow window. There was more snow coming in. We go now or we don’t go. And Cecilia very much wanted to go.
“Hello, hi, welcome, straight to the back, please.” With a pasted smile, Cecilia gestured with French-tipped nails along the line of the plane. She bit her lip as they shuffled their way in, buffeting one against the other with their thick anoraks, all clumsy in heavy gloves. “If you could move out of the aisle, please.” Smiling, smiling. “Let me help you with that.” She moved alongside the Jude Law look-alike with his Armani shirt, open at the collar, and reached up to angle the carry-on into the overhead bin, not looking at the thin-lipped, flat-eyed woman who stood beside him.
Then the doors were shut and they were moving, and all eyes were on her as she pirouetted through the safety briefing. Smiling. Always smiling.
Trying not to smell the smoke rising from the bridges that she had burned behind her.
They were taxiing, building pressure pinning her to her seat. Cecilia turned her head, watching pinprick lights skittering against the dark night sky. She sighed. She had straightened her hair three times today, teasing the bangs that curled from the damp of the snow, pulling at it with fingers that trembled, ever so slightly, knowing that it would do no good. But doing it anyway, because it was better than thinking. Anything was better than that. Then the lift. Flickering lights giving way to black sea. A turn, climbing, climbing.
Cecilia leaned back in her seat. Was staring off into space when she realized someone was staring at her. The little girl was three, four maybe. Chocolate streaked across the tip of her nose, solemn jaw moving up and down. She was twisted around in her chair watching the flight attendant. She was beautiful. Dark eyes. Like Ben’s.
Cecilia looked away.
They were climbing through the clouds. The plane shimmied, but she was looking at her reflection again, where the mascara had smudged. She was thinking about Ben’s smell, his velvet skin, the way he slept with his mouth ever so slightly open, snoring a little boy’s snore. She felt sick.
A murmur rippled through the cabin, and Cecilia glanced up, waiting for something, anything, so that she didn’t have to think about the little boy she had left behind. The little girl had turned around, curling into her mother as they leafed through the pages of a book. But there were others glancing back at her. Cecilia tugged her shirt straight. An attractive girl, maybe twenty, maybe a little more, her oversized hoop earrings swinging, looked at Cecilia. It was like she wanted to say something, but she didn’t, and, biting her lip, she lowered her eyes to look down into her lap where her hands twisted one inside the other.
Then the plane bucked. The murmur replaced with a “whoa” of riders on a roller coaster. Cecilia flung out her hand, bracing herself against the window.
“It’s only crosswinds. Nothing to worry about.” Her words were lost in the groaning of engines. But she said them again, whispering to herself.
The engines whirred, singing in an unfamiliar key. The girl with the hoop earrings was looking at her again, eyes wide, willing her to say something. Another buck. A high-pitched whining she hadn’t heard before. There was nothing beyond the windows. A sea of gray cotton breaking into darkness.
The engine was straining, a dog pulling at its leash; they seemed to be tilting, not climbing, but pointing upward, steep, steeper than she had ever seen it. A solitary bottle of Dr Pepper had shaken itself loose from somewhere. It rolled down the aisle, rattling, bouncing, all eyes watching as it drifted to a stop at her feet. Then the chaos of noise vanished into a deafening silence.
And she knew.
She hadn’t said good-bye to her son. She had stood on the threshold, where the murky blue glow of Ben’s Toy Story night-light met the darkness of the hallway, and watched him sleep with his arms thrown up over his head, the way he had slept ever since he was a baby. And she had turned and walked away.
Someone screamed. Then they were falling.
ABOUT EMMA KAVANAGH
Emma Kavanagh was born and raised in South Wales. After graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, she spent many years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel throughout the UK and Europe. Now she is lucky enough to be able to write for a living. She lives in South Wales with her husband and young son.