“A smart girl is nobody’s pushover and nobody’s foe. A smart girl is both sword and smile.”
Doubleday | 2018
Opening Hook: I woke up like this (next to a dead body)
Main Character: Barely sober, mostly stupid
Plot Twisty-ness: Only twisty because she’s drunk and dizzy
Oh, boy this is super disappointing.
The Flight Attendant had been on my radar for a while. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the other reviews on the matter, but my ability to make a snap decision based on a good synopsis has been my downfall once again.
All I saw was “she wakes up next to a dead body,” and I was 100% on board with this. (That was a genuinely subtle plane pun.)
But Omigod, it was not at all what I was hoping it would be. The kick-off has so much promise to be suspenseful and thrilling, but it didn’t end up working for me.
I knew it was a thriller. But no one warned me that this was a spy thriller. Jesus, take the wheel! I don’t think I have ever liked a spy thriller. As Peter Griffin would say, they insist upon themselves.
It is my personal opinion that spy thrillers only work on screen because at least the ridiculousness of the storyline can be matched with action sequences and it all balances out in that over-the-top framework.
Despite the opening of Cassie, The Drunk Flight Attendant, waking up next to a dead body after another one-night stand caught my attention, this novel really devolved after that into a spy thriller format that left little for me to be interested in because I found it all to be cheesy and silly.
“It was just like so many of the other times she had woken up naked and hungover in bed with a guy, with only the slightest idea how she had gotten there – except this time the guy was dead.”
Brace for some mild spoiler-y complaining…
The whole novel hinged on one plot point that I thought was rationally flimsy – the idea that Cassie would doubt the story of why her one-night stand was murdered that was told to her by the FBI, and go to bat for someone she didn’t know, putting her life in danger with the FBI and the Russian government. All of that because the victim washed her hair before they had sex.
Bad guys don’t wash your hair, I guess?
I mean putting aside how fucking gross I think that mental picture is, it’s a pretty stupid reason to go hog-wild on behalf of a dead guy. I think 9 times out of 10, if the FBI said to you, “that man who you barely know and was murdered was killed by a Russian assassin,” you’d be like, “It’s amazing I’m not dead as well, so peace out. Let me move on from this fucking craziness. RIP.”
What you would not do is say, “You know, FBI man? I think you’re wrong. He washed my fucking hair. MY HAIR. You’ve got this all wrong and I’m going to prove it!”
But, after learning that her one-time lover was killed by a Russian hit woman with a heart of gold, that’s exactly what she does.
But she doesn’t do it sober, because, as she will tell you again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again, Cassie loves to drink. This bitch is drunk for the entire novel. She’s a classic alcoholic who had an alcoholic parent, and quite honestly I don’t care about her reasons. Yes, addiction is a disease, and as family and friends, we have to deal with it, not enable it and push for treatment. It’s an emotional rollercoaster and it sucks. It’s enough to make you drink.
As a reader, who is not bound by any relation to a fake character that is entirely made up in a fictional tale, I wanted to drop kick her and not deal with her, because who wants to deal with an annoying AF drunk in their leisure time?
I don’t understand making the main character this unlikable and annoying. I just don’t. Having flaws and being a terrible person, are two different things. Being an unreliable narrator and not being able to provide information because you were as lit as a Christmas tree, are two different things.
“She knew that most men desired her because she was attractive and she was smart, but also because she was a drunk and she was easy.”
Cassie manages to stumble her way through every scene, being incredibly unsympathetic and straight up stupid. I mean, honestly, she was so dumb in every decision she actively chose to make – at times even directly ignoring the advice of her very smart lawyer – that I’m not sure how she survived to the end. Hell, I’m not sure how I managed to survive to the end. At the very least she should have a serious STI, maybe even jail time.
What’s more, Cassie manages to get through her quest to find out exactly what happened to her dead one-time lover by getting drunk and having more one night stands. Once with a guy who is a new undercover assassin and then with a waiter who can get her a gun and help save her life… or something along those lines.
Honestly, it just got so weird, even for a spy thriller. That this whole thing relied on one-night stands and being drunk and washing someone’s hair nearly gave me an aneurysm.
And the kicker is, I’m not giving this one star because Chris Bohjalian is a good writer. The prose and sentence structure, pacing and tone and characterization and setting and the authenticity given to being a flight attendant… it was all good.
That said, this might be the worst case of “good writing, terrible plot” I’ve ever come across.
This didn’t work for me at all.
Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing.
When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets.
Afraid to call the police—she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home—Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean—or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai.
Could she have killed him? If not, who did?