Synopsis: 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 wakes up 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, 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?
The Flight Attendant is a real page-turner and is very well-written by Chris Bohjalian. It was my first book by him, but it will not be the last. While Cassie is not the most clever or responsible character, you will find yourself feeling for her and her plight. I liked all the details about her profession that the author wove into the storyline—my sister is actually a flight attendant, and after she read the novel, she confirmed to me that the facts were correct.
While that may seem like a small thing in terms of this being just a juicy pulp thriller, I appreciate the attention to detail. The book delves into the tragedy of addiction and the consequences of reckless, self-destructive behavior, but its primary job is to entertain and shock with its continuous plot twists and revelations about Cassie’s dead bed buddy.
In case you are wondering how similar the series is to the book… it’s not. While the basic setup is the same, the HBO Max show’s tone is quirky and kooky. It also shows many other characters in their private lives (not something that was shared in the source material because everything was presented to us from the protagonist’s POV). The series also employs a weird plot device with the dead man walking around and talking to Cassie as she tries to figure out what happened. It feels like a bizarre flashback to An American Werewolf in London. Adding insult to injury, the series completely changes who the killer was and why it happened.
Having said that, if you’re not comparing the two, The Flight Attendant series is entertaining in its own right, and Kaley Cuoco feels just right in the lead role.
If you’re going to try both versions, I recommend reading the book first.