Thriller set at mile high altitude – Dubai and New York (..a fioritura of frustration and fury…)

16th February 2019

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian, thriller set at mile high altitude – Dubai and New York City

Thriller set at mile high altitude - Dubai and New YorkCassie is the flight attendant travelling from Paris to Dubai. She is flirting with the younger man in seat 2C, first class. He is Alex Sokolov.

“Dubai was a vertical world between the flatness of sand and the flatness of sea, a cutting-edge outpost just across the Persian Gulf from Iran…”

They agree to meet later and one thing leads to another… and ultimately to his bloody murder. She wakes up next to him in his swanky Dubai hotel and discovers herself splattered in his blood; he is utterly dead and cold. Was she in any way culpable?

She dithers about what to do as she doesn’t believe she killed him, despite the seeming evidence to the contrary (wouldn’t we all dither, given the alien and draconian judicial system in the country – having consensual sex outside of wedlock is, for example, punishable!) and finally decides to wipe up as much of her DNA as possible (where’s her lipstick, however…??) and head back to her own hotel on foot. She decides to walk rather than get a taxi in order to avoid undue memorable attention on any CCTV footage (walking would, I imagine, garner more attention, as people just don’t walk in the height of Summer in Dubai, even just a few blocks! Besides which there are very few pavements for this reason).

Back at home in New York City the drama is unfolding, the creep of the story across the pages of the national newspapers is beginning. Yes, there are blurry photos of a woman with Alex and yes, that woman is deemed to be her. Having denied being with him, she has to think on her feet and be sharp about it!

She is used to swerving curve balls because she is an alcoholic who has become adept at cover ups. She also has innumerable nameless sexual encounters when drunk. Basically her life is out of control, as well her friend Megan knows and who seems to cover for her.

The quick snifters in the galley gave me the heebie jeebies. Surely, despite loads of mints, the smell of alcohol would leach from all her pores given the quantities Cassie is knocking back? Someone would notice and report her? And surely she would have been outed on her alcohol addiction before now in her long career?

But wait! I was further unsettled! As is our wont at TripFiction – in order to really get the feel for a book – I was reading this thriller in a plane. I was sitting in seat…. 2C..Eek! (though alas not in First Class like Mr Sokolov). If I looked up at our flight attendant, would I see Cassie? Perish the thought! Thankfully not a whiff of alcohol anywhere…..

Thriller set at mile high altitude - Dubai and New York

Cassie in her drunken state has her inner voice craving alcohol, equating to a fioritura of frustration and fury. She is a compulsive liar, everyone knows it, she is a wreck of a human being. She seems to rise above it and tries all kinds of things to create her happy end, from volunteering at the local cat shelter to reading The Death of Ivan Ilyich (suggested by Sokolov).

Overall the story felt quite chaotic, mirroring no doubt the lifestyle of the main protagonist. I just couldn’t quite believe that after a good 20 years in service her alcoholism wouldn’t have been outed….

As she waits for her fate, now in the hands of the FBI, there are hints of terrorist involvement, spying, trading of country secrets and more, and once she acquires a gun, the story began to feel rather contrived and staggered to a fairly implausible ending. It was a novel of inebriation and consequences with the added dimension of espionage (or terrorism); it didn’t particularly deliver on that front. I also got heartily sick of alcohol references (yes, I was clear from early on that she had a very severe drink problem).

The novel is  a reasonably interesting romp through one woman’s trials; it offers a decent backstory of flying and serving, however overall it didn’t engage me as the story was just a little ramshackle and a touch unbelievable.

The finished physical quality of my book was poor, a flopping paperback where the cover was slightly smaller than the content and the binding irregular.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

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