Nelson DeMille,
Night Fall
(Time Warner, 2004)

How many of you remember back hearing about the explosion of TWA Flight 800 over the Atlantic, east of Long Island. In July 1996, 230 people on their way to Paris perished in this incident. The official cause of the explosion was a mechanical failure; a spark in one of the fuel tanks ignited vapors, causing the plane's destruction. However, there are other theories, primarily focused on a missile attack. Many witnesses described a streak of light headed towards the aircraft. If it was a missile, was it a terrorist act? Was it a wayward missile from the U.S. Navy exercise occurring in the area?

Nelson DeMille has written a novel about the TWA Flight 800 investigation called Night Fall. A character from previous DeMille novels -- Plum Island, The Lion's Game -- is on the case five years later. Well, John Corey, an ex-NYPD detective who now contracts with the FBI, is not officially on the case. He is more working on it in his spare time. His second wife, Kate Mayfield, was part of the official investigation back in 1996. She was never satisfied with the official conclusion. But as a career FBI agent, she has to go along with the official version of events.

Not so for Corey, after his wife piques his interest in the case. There was a rumor of an amateur videotape of the explosion, but it never showed up. Would it be possible for Corey to use his detective skills to find out if the video was ever shot and locate it, if it did indeed exist? When the powers that be tell him to back off, it becomes a personal mission to find this video. Corey doesn't like being told what he is and is not allowed to do. So, for 15 hours over 13 CDs, Scott Brick narrates John's investigation. I say "narrates" because Scott has, perhaps, three accents. While he has a great voice for the wise-cracking, defiantly New York Corey, it is unfortunate that all the characters sound strangely similar. In fact, when dialogue gets a little long, it was not uncommon for me to lose track of which character was speaking, except perhaps from context.

What I enjoyed most about this novel is that Corey is a total smart-@ss, very witty, and Scott's delivery is spot on! What I disliked about the book was the ending. I have to say that it is a very clever way to wrap things up considering the book is based on real events. Unfortunately, the way it hit me might be equated to watching a close ball game down to the final minutes when, right in the middle of a critical play, someone changes the channel.

Most, if not all, of us will never know what truly happened to TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996. By this time, we have probably decided what the truth is and won't be swayed by someone else's argument. Still, Night Fall is definitely an entertaining look at what might have happened. (Stress on the word "might.") For those conspiracy theorists types out there, this book will be right up your alley. It will sound more like a documentary instead of a novel. For those of you familiar with Nelson DeMille's writing, you know what to expect from John Corey. For the rest of you, this novel is a decent introduction to the New York Times best-selling author's work.

- Rambles
written by Wil Owen
published 7 May 2005

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