Falling | Emma Kavanagh | 2014 | Arrow | 327p | Bought copy | Buy the book
One cold winter’s day, a community in Wales is badly shaken by two terrible events. A plane falls from the sky with only a lucky thirteen surviving to live another day. But surviving is only part of their battle as they struggle to come to terms with living while others didn’t, especially their loved ones. Cecilia was an air hostess and by sitting in a seat she shouldn’t have been sitting in she survived while her friends and colleagues died. This guilt feeds off Cecilia’s older guilt – she was leaving her husband and child. But the crash returns her to them, pulling tight the strings that she can’t quite cut. But this isn’t all. Libby, a police support officer, is murdered, an act that tears apart her family, including the heart of Jim, Libby’s retired police officer father.
Falling tells the story of four people, switching between them chapter by chapter. Cecilia is our plane survivor, trying to come to terms with her experiences and facing her past while helping to console the few who were also pulled from the wreckage. Tom is Cecilia’s husband and father of their young son. As if he doesn’t have enough on his plate, he is also a police officer tasked with trying to discover the reason for Libby’s murder. Jim is Libby’s father and he is driven to avenge his daughter. Finally, we have Freya, the daughter of the plane’s dead pilot, the one who has to face questions best not answered while grieving for her loss.
All of these stories are intertwined, the shadow of the falling plane holding them together while the murder of Libby rips them apart. It is an extremely emotional and powerful read. The stories are heartfelt, the victims of murder and plane crash never allowed to stray far from our minds.
The central figure is arguably the one who is hardest to care for – Cecilia. This is a woman intent on abandoning her young son as well as husband. But as the novel goes on we learn more about her background and at last the sympathy comes. This is aided enormously by the compassion that Cecilia feels for her fellow plane survivors and for the comfort she brings them. Much of the story, though, is a compelling murder mystery with more than enough twists and surprises to entertain the reader. Tom’s investigations provide an intriguing parallel to the story of his wife.
Falling is Emma Kavanagh’s debut novel and it is extremely well done. It completely satisfies as a psychological thriller but it has so many layers to it. It is powerful and dramatic, exciting and puzzling. It is also extremely touching in places. It is never easy to put down. Emma Kavanagh spent years as a police and military psychologist and this insight is evident throughout. Falling is very dark and traumatic in places but it is beautifully written and compelling throughout, the characters are fascinating to know, each unique and distinct, and the outcome is spot on. I cannot wait to read Hidden which is published in April this year. After Falling I expect great things. No pressure!