Night Fall

By: Nelson De Mille

Rating: 88%

Brief Summary: A fictional investigation into the real-life TWA Flight 800 that exploded over New York in 1996.

Night Fall explores the tragedy of TWA Flight 800--which mysteriously exploded over the Atlantic Ocean just off of the coast of Long Island in July of 1996. The story, the characters, and the plot are all completely fictitious--however, many aspects of the actual event are explored in detail. This novel obviously succeeds in educating the reader on the factual event, but does it succeed in the story telling that weaves around this event? First let's look at the plot.

The novel begins with a man and a woman involved in an adulterous affair on the beaches of Long Island. Brought along with them to the beach is--not only a towel and champagne, but a video camera so they can relive their "moment" at a later time. Well as the camera begins rolling and the couple is "distracted", they hear and see an explosion behind them in the sky. Realizing this will bring onlookers to the beach, they pack up at once and leave. The only thing they have time to grab is the video camera. Everything else is left behind--including a beach towel from a local hotel and the lens of the video camera. These two items play a major role later on.

By the second chapter, the story now shifts five years later and introduces the main character: an ex-NYPD detective, John Corey. The remaining chapters are told from Corey's first person perspective. Corey's wife, Kate--also with an investigative history--worked the case of TWA 800 as an FBI agent 5 years earlier. Despite many eyewitnesses seeing a possible missile or rocket that shot down the aircraft, the authorities investigation ends with an explanation that an explosion in the center fuel tank had caused the "accident". Case closed. But the conspiracy theorists--not only in the novel, but in the real world--would not settle for this explanation because just too many people claim to have seen an object fly upwards towards the aircraft. The story does not go away.

After they are introduced to the reader, Corey and his wife immediately attend the five year anniversary/memorial of the tragedy at a Long Island beach. This ceremony instantly triggers Corey into thinking of the actual event and he wonders if the real cause would ever be known. At the very least, to give the families real answers to live with. With his wife taking the lead in this "tutorial", the next 150-200 pages explores many facets and theories about this event as they interview people involved and go to the rebuilt plane itself. Though very interesting, it is not something that will keep the pages turning.

Eventually Corey finds out about the potential video tape that may have captured the whole event on film. This is where the book get's exciting. He goes on a lengthy investigation--this time alone, as his wife has left the country--to find out (1) who this couple was, (2) does their tape still exist, (3) where the tape is--if it exists, (4) and what does it show. This investigation starts to take a rapid pace in the second half of the novel. By this time, the pages begin to turn faster and more intensely. The action and the mystery are very compelling. All the while, the "feds" are one step behind Corey trying to discourage him from looking into this matter. Though they don't say it outwardly, you realize that much of the plot will be resolved on or around September 11th.

The style of the writing is very straight forward. Description is kept to a minimum. The Dialog, fast - some of which is witty. Many of the aspects of the story are simply beyond belief, or at the very least, very stereotypical--but hey, it works. Its fun to read.

The only attempted character development in the story belongs to John Corey himself. Everyone else, including his wife, are merely a way of keeping the story moving. So, if you want a novel full of vivid descriptions and characters that you will intimately get to know--this is not the book for you. This is merely a "fun" story regarding a tragic event (oxymoron?) that fuels the fire of those into conspiracy theory. Remember, there is a lot of fiction here thrown in with the facts. So one must read Night Fall with a "grain of salt".

Remember, as it stands today, no one really knows what happened--so obviously this book will not shed new light on the topic. If you keep this in mind, you cannot go wrong.

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