The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

I’ve been a fan of Chris Bohjalian for many years…I think possibly Midwives was the first one of his that I read. Anyway, he has written a ton of good books, many of which had unique characters, settings, or situations. In addition to Midwives, I especially liked The Sandcastle Girls because I learned so much about the Armenian genocide while reading an entertaining story…and The Guest Room was another fave, for its tension and suspense while dealing with a social issue (human trafficking).

Thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley, I received a copy of The Flight Attendant in exchange for my honest review – and it was great fun to read despite the ick factor that is the first thing the reader encounters.

Cassandra Bowden, aka Cassie, wakes up one morning in a hotel room in Dubai, painfully hung over, in bed with a man she just met the night before. Neither of these is rare for Cassie, whose life as an international flight attendant consists of episodes of one-night stands and binge drinking between flights. The difference this time is that the man is dead, brutally murdered, and the bed and Cassie are covered in blood. ICK!!! Not only does Cassie not know all the circumstances of how she ended up there, she isn’t quite sure whether she was the one who killed Alex Sokolov. She remembers meeting him on the flight, flirting with him, then agreeing to go out on the town in Dubai…but she has a(nother) blackout episode (a recurring event for her) and kind of freaks out. So she does what she often does: she lies. To her crewmates, to the FBI, to pretty much everyone. As the plot unspools, there are many questions about both people (was he a spy? Is this related to Cassies’s brother-in-law whose high-level security clearance has something to do with weapons of mass destruction? Who was the other woman in the hotel room?) and events (who killed him? Can Cassie trust her fellow flight attendants?)

The book is told with the alternating points of view of Cassie and that mysterious other woman, interspersed with interview reports as Cassie and others are interviewed by the authorities. The building of suspense is terrific, and I really couldn’t go to sleep til I had finished it. As usual for me, I didn’t guess the ending in advance (although I did have concerns and suspicions early on as I learned Cassie was not only a liar but a thief, getting gifts for family from hotels around the world). I really liked it, even though I went into it with my usual bias toward Mr. Bohjalian, expecting to love it. It didn’t disappoint – five stars.

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Sneddon Try Not To Breathe cover

I actually read Holly Seddon’s book Try Not to Breathe on Groundhog Day…highly appropriate, since there was so much about it, both in plot and tone as other things I have read recently (esp. Girl on the Train).

There are several interesting characters in the book, especially the two women Alex and Amy, who are connected in the present day by a horrific event that happened fifteen years ago and left Amy is a vegetative state. Alex, a journalist who seems to be trying to resurrect either her career or her sense of self-worth (or both?), is working on a story about Amy and comes across Jake, who was Amy’s boyfriend back in the day and who has continued to visit her pathetically sad space nearly every day since. Of course, there is a mystery surrounding the events that led to Amy’s current situation, and there is sort of a mystery about Alex’s messy life and whether or not she can get it together, and what the hell is Jake hanging around for? (a question his pregnant wife is also asking).

It was a quick read, and the characters were compelling, but I cannot say I LIKED the book. It was more the train wreck, I just couldn’t look away! I am not bothered by alternating points of view or shifts in time, and I think the author did a great job portraying the pain caused by Alex’s addiction. So, if you want a book that will grab you in terms of mystery and wanting to know why characters do what they do, grab this one! I give it four stars for interesting plot and well-drawn characters, but there was a boatload of willing suspension of disbelief that had to happen (esp in terms of Alex still being alive after her self-destructive history and how Jake can chase people down while on crutches etc. – but overall, a thought-provoking read. Thank you, Net Galley, for an advance copy in return for my review.