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Literary Glance: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

April 2, 2018

I knew the guy in bed with her was dead from the opening sentence.  I mean, the author hadn’t yet established that there was a guy in bed with her in the first sentence, but I knew he was dead.  I hadn’t read the book jacket.  I hadn’t read any reviews.  This was a cold reading of The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian, and I still knew the guy was dead.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say the guy is dead if you find that out in the first chapter of a book.  Now, if the guy turns out to be alive, and the dead body was a twin or a woman or a replica, then that would be a spoiler, but saying that the protagonist’s one-night stand is dead in the morning of the first chapter… that’s not really a spoiler.

What happens after the protagonist discovers the dead body is interesting enough.  She’s a flight attendant (which explains the book title) staying overnight in the UAE and knows she won’t be treated well by the police there if she’s caught with the dead body, even if she was set up.  So there is a tense moment as The Flight Attendant decides what to do.  The book isn’t bad just because the reader knows there’s a dead body in the bed.

When I later read the book jacket, I saw that the blurb was just a brief summary of the first chapter I had already read.  That kind of ticked me off.  I could have just read the book jacket and started the book on Chapter 2.  Aaaaarrrrgh!!!!!   I guess this is what I get for cold reading a book.

The Flight Attendant started off last week at #2 on the bestsellers list for hardcover fiction, but it has already dropped to #14.  I don’t know how long it will stay in the bestseller’s list, so I wanted to mention it while it was still around.  I actually think The Flight Attendant is better written and more interesting than some of the other thrillers that have been hanging around the top ten for a while.

For example, the first chapter of The Flight Attendant is more interesting than the first couple chapters of The Woman in the Window, which has been in the top ten since January.  The Woman in the Window had a lot more hype and a lot of backing from its publishing company (one of their editors wrote the book), so the industry might have incentive to keep that book in the top ten for a while… if things work like that.

I’m not really intrigued by the world of flight attendants though.  That could be a problem for a book called The Flight Attendant.  Maybe The Flight Attendant should have a different title.  The Binge DrinkerThe Blackout ArtistThe Dead Body Next To Me.  I’d read a book called The Dead Body Next To Me.  The only problem is that all the readers would know that the dead body next to the protagonist in the morning was dead.  I’d hate to be reading a book called The Dead Body Next To Me and then be surprised that the body next to the protagonist was dead.

I’d feel pretty stupid if I did that.

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