Drowning by TJ Newman was a rare read as I was rivetted from the opening paragraphs. She put me onto that plane as it was going down and, though only briefly exposed to some characters, I already cared about their fate and had a very visceral reaction to what was happening. (Full disclosure, I was – ahem – quite teary before the end of the first chapter*!)
I tend to skim read more than I should – usually over descriptive prose, or sometimes [what I believe to be] irrelevant detail – to get to the action. But by action I mean conversations or things progressing the plot. I’m not really a lover of heart-pumping ACTION action. When watching movies I fast forward fight scenes and car chases.
Getting me truly panicked about a narrative means I need to be really engaged. I need to be there and I need to care. Which was the case here. I wanted to skim as much as possible because I REALLY NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN!**
by T.J. Newman
Published by Simon & Schuster, Simon & Schuster Australia
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Six minutes after takeoff, Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean. During the evacuation, an engine explodes and the plane is flooded. Those still alive are forced to close the doors—but it’s too late. The plane sinks to the bottom with twelve passengers trapped inside.
More than two hundred feet below the surface, engineer Will Kent and his eleven-year-old daughter Shannon are waist-deep in water and fighting for their lives.
Their only chance at survival is an elite rescue team on the surface led by professional diver Chris Kent—Shannon’s mother and Will’s soon-to-be ex-wife—who must work together with Will to find a way to save their daughter and rescue the passengers from the sealed airplane, which is now teetering on the edge of an undersea cliff.
There’s not much time.
There’s even less air.
In her debut novel, Falling, Newman’s background as a flight attendant was evident. She effortlessly dropped in detail about flight stuff, about airlines and aircraft that meant nothing to me but made me feel confident that she knew what she was talking about and this was all very very feasible. Here in particular, I loved that she was able to offer us flight crew (flight attendants and a pilot) who remained professional but also human and vulnerable.
She offers a great mix of characters (in Will, Shannon, Chris, pilot Kit and flight attendant Molly) and doesn’t dwell on those who didn’t make it or even really describe their fate. In some ways it was glossed over a little, with one of the rescue team mentioning the (very small) number of those they’d picked up. I can’t recall now if we learned the final stats but part of me wanted Will to be publicly vindicated for the choices he’d made.
I was worried on a couple of occasions that we were going to veer into cliches with the bombastic passenger Andy and the Armageddon-like / cowboy rescue squad Chris manages; but Newman grounds this (no pun intended) by having several rescue options considered (and some fail) rather than pulling a miracle from a hat.
This novel is an excellent example of a thriller that transcends genre expectations and bias. It delivered a plot that will stay with me and I’ll also remember the fervour with which I raced through it – with urgency – in one sitting. I am certainly not surprised it Nicole Kidman and Jerry Bruckheimer reportedly bid against each other for the rights to translate it onto the big or small screen.
I cannot wait to see what Newman brings us next.
Drowning by TJ Newman will be published in Australia by Simon & Schuster and available on 1 June 2023.
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.
* This could also be because I’d flown the day before.
** I said the exact same thing in my review of Falling!