Originally published March 2018
Is it just me or does it seem like bookshelves are awash in drunken heroines lately?
From “The Girl on the Train” to “The Woman in the Window,” frustrated female protagonists everywhere are hitting the bottle. And Chris Bohjalian’s latest thriller, “The Flight Attendant,” follows suit — with leading lady Cassandra Bowden leaning heavily on the drink to escape from her past, present and future.
Full disclosure up front — Bohjalian is one of my go-to authors for a guaranteed great read. So, your mileage may vary. I just know that for me, his books at a minimum will entertain (The Light in the Ruins, The Guest Room) and in the best cases, throw me for a loop in an unexpected-yet-oh-so-satisfying way (The Double Bind, The Night Strangers). “The Flight Attendant” falls in the latter category, with a twist toward the end that blindsided me. I simply did not see it coming.
Bohjalian can be a master of misdirection. In the case of Cassie Bowden, readers are treated to a two-fer — a murder mystery and a tale of redemption, all in one. Each storyline has a distinct set of characters, with Cassie as the overlap between the two. So while you spend time turning one storyline over and over in your head, you neglect to consider other, possibly more shocking, scenarios.
So, readers, you’ve been forewarned: Trust no one in this tale. No one.
That advice shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing as Cassie, our globe-trotting lush of a flight attendant, opens the novel in bed with a corpse. Having to make a hasty decision as to whether she should stay or run, she charts a course that leads her back to New York and the FBI, a union rep, a lawyer and a shot at love. If only if she can find out who killed her one-night-stand before someone pins it on her. Or, you know, kills her too.
Cassie is a questionable heroine, for sure. An unstable upbringing has left her finding her own way and getting lost for far too long. The bottle is her escape from her constant self-loathing and the cause of even more self-destructive behavior. And at times, that flaw can make it difficult to empathize with her. But in comparison to similar protagonists in books mentioned earlier, I found it much easier to feel compassion for her situation and to chalk up her bad decisions to very intense circumstances.
I could possibly take issue with the novel’s ending, except that it sort of fits. The girl is an adrenaline junkie, after all. But would it have been too much to hope for another night with Enrico?
Perfect read for the next time you have to hit the road. Engaging and easy to fall into, you likely won’t want to stop reading until you get to the last page.