Book review: Falling by Emma Kavanagh

A plane falls mysteriously from the sky, a young woman’s body is found on a river bank and lives are destined to fall apart…

Falling by Emma Kavanagh
Falling by Emma Kavanagh

Emma Kavanagh’s exciting debut novel is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma, a taut psychological thriller heralding the arrival of a fresh new talent to the dark art of crime writing.

As a former police psychologist, Kavanagh knows what makes the bad guys tick and how the good guys track them down… and she’s also a dab hand at keeping us on the edge of our seats.

Falling is a refreshingly internalised and multi-layered crime mystery with an intriguing character-driven plotline that takes us deep into the hearts and minds of a disparate bunch of people, each with their own history and each with hidden truths.

Over the course of two weeks, we witness the unravelling of their secrets, the ties that bind together their lives and the painstaking police hunt to solve a murder and find the cause of a devastating plane crash.


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It’s mid-March in Cardiff and four people all have something to hide. Thirty-year-old Cecilia Williams is an experienced air stewardess who carries a heavy weight of personal baggage and has made the momentous decision to walk out not just on her husband but their two-year-old son as well.

Tom Allison has been a CID detective for the past 15 years. He has seen plenty of dead bodies during his career and ‘smelled death more times than he would have thought possible.’ Now he has woken up to discover that his wife was on a plane that crashed that morning, leaving only a handful of survivors.

At the other side of town is Jim Hanover, a retired police superintendent who today is a worried father. His beloved only daughter Libby, a Police Community Support Officer with big ambitions, has disappeared and he senses something is terribly wrong.

Student Freya Blake has learned that her pilot father Oliver, who was at the controls of the crash plane, was one of those killed. Her real worry is that she is struggling to mourn a father who was never more than ‘a shape behind a newspaper, a back walking out of the door.’


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Forced by circumstances to delve into Oliver’s murky past, Freya makes some uncomfortable discoveries. Cecilia, who miraculously survived the crash, must also face her demons and the two police officers, past and present, will be tested to the limit…

Bristling with tension and cleverly plotted, Falling weaves between past and present, allowing a window onto the troubled lives of four complex and compelling characters as they negotiate a maze of secrets, lies and shocking revelations.

A thrilling, thought-provoking story and an impressive debut.

(Century, hardback, £9.99)