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Friday, March 9, 2018

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday ISBN 9780385542418
Hardcover, $26.95, 368 pages

One of the things I like best about author Chris Bohjalian is that every book he writes is so different from his last. He has written about a Vermont midwife accused of a terrible crime (Midwives), a young woman attacked while riding her bike (The Double Bind), an Italian family trapped in their villa in WWII (The Lights in the Ruins), a young American nurse who is witness to the Armenian genocide in 1915 (The Sandcastle Girls), and a man whose life intersects with a young woman caught up in sex trafficking when he hosts a bachelor party for his brother-in-law (The Guest Room), among many others.

His latest novel, The Flight Attendant, maybe his most topical yet. Cassie Bowden is a flight attendant who spends her time-off  getting blackout drunk and waking up in the bed of an unfamiliar man. She doesn't see this as a problem, she likes to drink and have fun.

Until the morning she wakes up in Dubai, in the bed of Alex Sokolov, a handsome hedge fund manager who grew up in Virginia and now lives in New York City. They struck up a conversation as she worked first class on the plane, and then met for dinner and went back to his hotel room, where they drank a lot of vodka and had sex.

She was nauseous and hungover and when she turned to look at Alex, his throat was slit from one end to the other. After monmentarily panicking, Cassie carefully showered the blood off herself, and wondered if she had killed Alex. She had done dumb things while drunk, but she was never violent.

She wiped her fingerprints off anything she touched and hightailed it back to her hotel, dressed and headed to the airport for her flight back to the United States. If needed, she'd call a lawyer from the US, but after what happened to Amanda Knox in Italy, calling the police in Dubai did not seem wise.

Cassie remembered that a woman, Miranda, a work acquaintance of Alex's, stopped by his hotel room and they all drank vodka while they talked business. Did she have anything to do with Alex's murder?

But Miranda is not her name. Her name is Elena and she is a Russian assassin tasked with killing Alex because he stole money from his investors, Russian oligarchs, which was not a good idea.

The Flight Attendant is a cat-and-mouse game as Cassie tries to figure out who killed Alex while evading the police investigation into his death and Elena is monitoring the investigation and Cassie, hoping she doesn't have to kill Cassie too.

As a big fan of FX television's The Americans, which is sadly winding up this spring (noooo!), I found The Flight Attendant a great companion to that. And with Russian meddling in our elections all over the news, it is the right time for this fast-paced novel with a surprise ending that will have you shaking your head in disbelief as Bohjalian pulls one over on the reader. I had to go back twice to say "What just happened????"

It is a crazy, suspenseful ride, and one well worth taking. Chris Bohjalian does it again.


  1. I love Bahjaian, too, and I also read this book. I think that it is a riveting literary thriller. (That is an understatement.) It's the best kind of book: the kind you can't put down so you put off doing anything else, including sleeping.

    The main character, Cassandra, the flight attendant, sleeps around with strange men, and she is a raging alcoholic. She disgusts even hersèlf. But that isn't enough to make her stop.

    As a result, she wakes up one morning with a dead man. And her problems keep escalating daily from there.

    Although Cassandra may be an unsympathetic character, she does redeem herself in my eyes. She cares for cats in an animal shelter every chance she gets. Besides that, she watches reruns of "The Big Bang Theory."

  2. I love Bohjalian's work and hope to get to this soon. I'm glad to see it's another winner.