Author: Chris Bohjalian
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨ (3.5 stars)
Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?
Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant instantly drew me in with its difficult premise: Cassie Bowden awakens next to a dead body after a blacked out night of drinking, and with the onset of a raging hangover, she must make a series of decisions that will haunt her for the rest of her life. The summary caught my eye because it’s hard not to wonder how you would handle such a precarious situation: waking up in a foreign country, next to a dead one night stand, and you don’t know if you did it. I was eager to watch the outcomes of of Cassie’s choices and discover the truth behind the night lost to her memory. Unfortunately, while there were parts of The Flight Attendant and Bohjalian’s writing that I truly loved, I never felt like I was able to truly immerse myself in the story.
There’s zero doubt in my mind that Bohjalian is a talented author. His prose is so rich with detail, and I appreciate how real he’s able to make something that I’d previously given little thought: the day-to-day lives of flight attendants. It’s a blast to step into Cassie’s shoes and experience the hectic nature of being constantly on the go, the thrill of visiting new places, and the stress of dealing with horror passengers bound to become the next viral sensation.
The Flight Attendant is a character-driven novel, and it’s clear how important Cassie’s work is to her. We really get to see all the layers of her character, from the various masks she puts on for her passengers, coworkers, family, and one night stands to the alcoholic mess she can be when she’s left to her own devices. I didn’t particularly like Cassie as an individual, but I felt like I understood her from several different angles.
Understanding her doesn’t necessarily mean I was able to connect with her, though, and I think that’s part of why this book didn’t blow me away. I’m all for a slow burn, but Cassie’s paranoia and inability to break the cycle of her own bad decisions made the much of the book slow and repetitive. The narrative is split with the perspective of another character, Elena, but that storyline felt similarly sluggish in arriving at a call to action. By the time the pace ratchets up for a frenzied conclusion in Rome, I was rather checked out of the plot and skimming over the smaller details. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the conclusion and wasn’t able to see it coming – there’s plenty packed into those last pages.
Definitely don’t discount this novel. Even if I had trouble immersing myself in the plot, it’s still a strong, character-driven mystery that draws some of its thrills from taking place all around the world. I really enjoyed Bohjalian’s writing, and I’m certainly looking forward to giving more of his work a chance.