The Flight Attendant
By Chris Bohjalian
Doubleday, New York (March 13, 2018), 368 pp.
ISBN: 978-0385542418; Hardcover, $26.95
Special to the Armenian Weekly
About 20 pages into The Flight Attendant—by the time protagonist Cassie Snowden extricates herself from a hotel room that can only be described as a way incriminating crime scene—you know that you are in for another well-paced Chris Bohjalian thriller. Snowden is a flight attendant and a boozer, the daughter of an alcoholic father, whose drinking has not quite caught up with her—yet. Single, in her 40s, and still prone to incidents of black out sex, she’s one hot mess.
So what exactly do you do when you wake up in a hotel room in Dubai next to a dead man, in a land notorious for its rather harsh penal codes? The answer takes the reader on a whirlwind adventure across three continents of love, murder and mafia intrigue galore. Bohjalian possesses a knack for dialogue and his characters interact with preternatural ease: even if some of them can feel a bit caricatured at times, they are alive and enticing.
The author’s great strength lies in his ability to spin a lively tale with all sorts of plot twists and unexpected outcomes. The Flight Attendant is more measured than some of his other works. Here, his other great quality as a writer comes out: i.e. the ability to make the reader care for his protagonist. Given that Snowden is a liar and a thief prone to self-pity, this isn’t as easy as it may sound. As in previous books, Bohjalian has done his research well, and you get a strong sense of what a flight attendant’s life may be like: glamorous but harried and full of one-night stands, a treadmill that only the most level-headed or emotionally gifted survive intact.
As this fast–moving story unfolds, the reader’s mind races. Will Cassie be tried for murder? Will the real murderer track her down and execute her as well? Will she escape the murderer’s clutches only to be ensnared in some other diabolical scheme? Along the way, you also hope (perhaps against all hope) that she will learn to deal with her fear of commitment and find true love, and in the process, also kick her bottle habit. Cassie’s only allies are a sexy Roman bartender named Enrico and one crafty lawyer back home, Ani Mouradian, who uses her wits and legal prowess to help a woman whom she comes to care for deeply. Ani is a great character, and one wishes that both she and Cassie’s two-night stand Buckley had been given more character development or pages.
The Flight Attendant is the best type of book to pick up when one doesn’t want to be hit over the head by pretentious prose or over-analytic musings: smart, entertaining, and breezily written, with a protagonist that you begin to identify with in spite of yourself. All this takes place against a background of Russian intrigue and a world where one false move may well be your last.