Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


The not-so-friendly skies of ‘The Flight Attendant’

Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Bohjalian’s twist-laden mystery an energetic and exciting read

In the literary realm, it’s pretty tough to produce work of high quality in high quantities. There are a handful of popular fiction writers who can do it – authors who can churn out books at a rapid rate without said books ever reading like they were churned, if that makes sense.

Chris Bohjalian is one such author.

His new book is “The Flight Attendant” (Doubleday, $26.95); it’s his 20th in a 30-year span. Yet this latest offering – a story of mystery and murder surrounding one woman and her hazy memories of an evening of questionable decisions – is just as sharp as anything he’s written in previous decades. Clever without being smug, lurid without being gratuitous, it’s a fast-paced read that embodies the best qualities of this kind of fiction.

Cassie Bowden is a flight attendant. She’s been at it for the better part of two decades – and she’s good at it. It’s the rest of her life where her skills are somewhat lacking. She’s got a streak of self-destruction a mile wide. She’s got a real problem with alcohol; it defines her life, leading her down paths of tawdry one-night stands and public misbehaviors and assorted other unsavory choices.

The occasional blackout has long been par for the course for Cassie, but when she wakes up one morning next to a man in Dubai – a passenger on her flight that she actually chatted up while on the job – she’s thrust into a chaotic nightmare.

See, she woke up next to a dead man, his throat slashed and his blood spattered all over the room. In a moment of blind panic and naked self-preservation, she makes a fateful decision – she leaves. She doesn’t believe that she’s the one who did it, but she has no memories of much of the night; she’s never hurt anyone before, but there’s always a first time.

So she runs. She’s got nothing but vague memories poking through a haze of drink – memories of a mystery woman who came to the room, a colleague of the man at his investment company – and so she flees. She gets on her return flight and heads back to the United States … where the FBI is waiting.

Cassie’s gotten really good at lying over the course of her life – so good that it’s almost second nature. Fearful of the possible consequences of her actions, she lies. She lies to the FBI and lies to her union rep and lies to her co-workers and friends. She doesn’t see any other way out.

But as the story breaks and suspicions start to swirl, Cassie is floundering. Law enforcement entities on both sides of the ocean are trying to solve this case. Titillating stories are landing in the tabloids and Cassie is lawyered up. There’s more to this than a simple murder – much more – but Cassie’s not prepared for just how deep the rabbit hole may go. This has implications far beyond one simple flight attendant – it’s a crime for which even the innocent may be harshly punished.

“The Flight Attendant” has all the wonderful meatiness of a potboiler while maintaining a certain degree of literary merit. It’s a fast-paced mystery driven by a twist-laden plot. By centering the story around a protagonist whose unreliability is immediately established, Bohajalian allows the reader to feel that very same lack of balance that keeps Cassie reeling – all while telling a parallel tale alongside Cassie’s journey.

That parallel narrative – present in every other chapter – is also compelling, albeit in a very different and distinct way. Details regarding said parallel path are best left unrevealed; the pieces will come together very quickly for the reader, but there’s no reason to know them going in. Suffice it to say, it’s a smart choice that adds a real depth to the experience that might otherwise have been lacking.

Again, the twists and turns of the narrative are great fun to experience. Experienced readers might be able to sniff out some of them, but the truth is that Bohjalian is almost certainly going to stay a few steps ahead of you right up until the very end. That’s not easy to do, but you wouldn’t know it from the deftness with which he pulls it off.

“The Flight Attendant” is the sort of book that one can’t help but read quickly. The writing is dynamic and the plot is seductive; the reader is helpless against the urge to know what happens next. It’s remarkable enough that Chris Bohjalian continues to produce work with such prolificacy, but to create stories this energetic and exciting and flat-out fun … it’s really something special.


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine