You Can Run . . .
Author: Chris Bohjalian
In a profession dedicated to running – hiding seems like it would be easy. But Cassandra (Cassie) Bowden cannot escape the haunting aspects of her life, no matter how high and how far she flies. Each night in new city – tonight Dubai, tomorrow Paris – bad decisions haunt her memories. Each morning she wakes up, hungover, ashamed of what little she can remember.
On the morning when she wakes up next to the previous night’s Mr. Right, a hedge fund manager with a yen for all things Russian, everything changes. Now there are bigger things to fear than the slow progression of sameness, than childhood memories of a drunken father, than her love of all things alcoholic, than the person she becomes when she blacks out. Now, there is blood, and a body, and the black abyss of a missing memory that shrouds the murder.
She runs, both from the horror of what she cannot remember doing, and the reality of a nearly decapitated body grown cold against her sleeping side. As she runs, she plans. If she did do this, she needs to erase any evidence. She needs to make it back to the airport, to her job as a flight attendant, and escape before it is too late. She needs to act as if nothing happened. She needs to make sure that she never returns to Dubai. She needs to lie and lie well.
The Flight Attendant starts with an edgy verve, backlighting the seediness of depression and dissatisfaction against glamorous locations, a life of travel and sights. Cassie is both broken and heroic, alone despite all of the places she has been, all of the new people she sees daily. It’s with this unreliable narrator that we wake up, that we go over the events of a washed-out night in an endless loop – that we discover a drained corpse snuggled nearby in the bedsheets of just another hotel. That’s when the paranoia arises. Did she – could she have – done this? If she didn’t – who did? If someone else killer her lover, why did they let her live? Is she a scapegoat or something far worse? Even more disturbing: how could she drunkenly sleep through a brutal murder that happened in the same bed, right beside her? If she’s innocent who will believe her anyway – a woman who cannot even remember, a woman with a history of hazy encounters, a woman who loses control almost daily. There is no time to figure out what happened; there is time only for the last instinct of preservation, for a hasty scrubbing of fingerprints and dodging of hotel lobby cameras. It has only just begun.
The novel is moody and terse, emotional in its very bleakness, psychologically intricate in both what it says and, more notably, in what it reveals. We have the evident theme of semi-functional alcoholism, both the beauty in the drink’s desolation and the darkness behind the need to dissolve. Cassie is haunted no worse than the rest of us, and yet it is the wearying disappointments of daily life, the rut that once created cannot be escaped, that pulls readers toward a heroine who would otherwise be alien. Mix in the element of a murder mystery, alongside a parallel spy side story that puts readers in the know, and you have a book with plenty of soulful introspection complimented by intrigue and desperate action.
The novel takes its time watching Cassie unravel, exploring the horrors of getting to know what she is capable of and the fear of being watched, revealed, or even worse, right. This slow build, usually alien in a thriller, is the true Goldilocks syndrome here – just perfectly right. By the conclusion we’ve been steeped in the alluring clink of Old Fashions, the personalities and luxury of different hotel rooms, the interconnected spread of viral information, and throbbing, acute sensation of very personal fear. In the end, we get both the who-dunnit and the why. We get a revelation, a vindication, a possible redemption, and more cold-blooded murder leaving The Flight Attendant seared into our emotional memories; the scars form a sort of pleasant trauma that makes us want to read more of this author, more mystery, more thrillers, and travel the heights while we’re doing it. You’ll never look at 40,000 feet the same way, or the beaming face of a flight attendant handing you a chilled glass of wine.
– Frances Carden
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