Book overview: “Drowning,” by T.J. Newman

T.J. Newman confronted an almost unimaginable process. Her first novel, “Falling,” was one of the profitable publishing tales of 2021: It debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller checklist, it was translated into greater than 30 languages, and movie rights have been bought after an intense bidding warfare. Second novels are notoriously troublesome, from each a business and a artistic standpoint. For Newman, the stakes and expectations are even greater.

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Happily, Newman’s second thriller, “Drowning,” serves as proof that the experience displayed in her first guide was no fluke. Her story a couple of airplane that crashes within the Pacific Ocean a mere six minutes after its departure from Hawaii is ruthlessly suspenseful, assured to stay in a reader’s thoughts lengthy after the final web page is turned. Newman — a former flight attendant — tells her story by means of a large number of views, starting from the crew to the passengers to the combination of Navy personnel and civilians decided to rescue them, and seemingly each sentence intensifies the dire predicament her characters face.

The chief protagonists of the story are Will Kent and his spouse, Chris. An earlier tragedy has strained their marriage to the purpose of separation and sure divorce, and Will is escorting their 11-year-old daughter to summer time camp in California. An engine failure forces the flight to crash within the water, and solely Will’s quick-thinking resolution to stay within the airplane retains a small group of passengers alive. Unfortunately — however rivetingly — the airplane sinks into the ocean. A sequence of life-threatening and real looking obstacles emerge for the passengers trapped within the cabin. Their solely hope for survival rests on Will’s information of engineering. Chris, who owns a enterprise in industrial diving and marine-related building, has a rescue plan of her personal.

Readers will uncover early on that nobody on this guide is protected. The passengers’ experiences come to life with visceral depth: The influence of the crash is vividly described as “mechanical entrails” pouring out of the airplane. In one other passage, a helpless passenger carrying a life vest whereas floating on the burning water “realized the heat was melting the plastic. Everyone watched as the vest popped and the rush of air acted as a bellows. The man went up in a blaze.” As the novel progresses and the strain tightens, the hazard spreads to Newman’s small group of survivors.

The conceit of a narrative like this, one present in films like “Apollo 13” or “127 Hours” or “Open Water,” might be troublesome to tug off: How do you retain a story vigorous in such a claustrophobic setting? Part of the artistic problem for Newman is to maintain the story shifting when her characters haven’t any place to go. She succeeds by taking readers exterior the sunken airplane’s cabin by means of transient, illuminating flashbacks and tense moments from the rescue group; it’s a credit score to her skills that these departures don’t decelerate the story. This is a thriller to the core, one which readers will need to end in a single sitting.

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That mentioned, there are moments when the prose falters — often a sentence is serviceable slightly than impressed. A young second between two characters feels wood: “She hugged him in such a way that he knew true healing had broken through.” Lines like “they were parents fighting to save their child” lack gravitas. And as compelling as Newman’s fundamental characters might be, the aspect performers are sometimes clichés: a loving, aged couple; an aggressive, problematic younger man; and a decided first officer are simply a few of the characters who’ve extra to supply than they’re given.

But these are quibbles, and so they shouldn’t detract from what Newman has achieved in her second guide. The readers who took an opportunity on her debut will discover a lot of what they liked on this follow-up — brisk storytelling, masterful suspense and the prospect to vicariously peer right into a nightmarish scenario from which heroes emerge.

E.A. Aymar’s most up-to-date thriller is “No Home for Killers.”

The Rescue of Flight 1421

Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster. 304 pp. $28

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