Drowning (Simon and Schuster 2023) by T.J. Newman is the follow-up suspense thriller to her international bestselling novel Falling. An ex-airline steward, Newman’s insider knowledge of all things aviation – especially the safety and risks aspects – informs her writing with factual accuracy and an incredible amount of detail. Her writing skill ensures a tight, pacey, edge of your seat story.

It was coincidence that I read this just after the Titan tragedy and the similarities certainly made this compelling thriller even more authentic. Flight 1421 crashes into the Pacific Ocean only six minutes after take-off, and in the immediate dramatic aftermath, an engine explodes during the evacuation, and the plane drops to the sea floor with 12 passengers still on board. Engineer Will knows how precarious their position is, especially as the plane is tilted dangerously close to the edge of a sea cliff. His instinct to protect his 11-year-old daughter Shannon is fierce. Meanwhile, above the surface, Will’s wife Chris (newly separated) is part of the team involved in the elite rescue mission, a delicate and time-sensitive operation to get to the passengers before the plane tips over the edge and into the endless deep, beyond the possibility of recovery. With only a limited pocket of air in the cabin, surrounded by the dead and injured, the small group of survivors must work together and try to communicate with the outside before their time runs out.

While it was a little coincidental that Will and his wife Chris would both be involved in this incident, the plot is generally plausible (terrifyingly so). Newman creates interesting and diverse characters and complex family dynamics. But it is the plot that shines in her writing – every page containing a heart-stopping moment, a crucial decision, a heart-breaking loss or a fatal choice.

Short, sharp chapters propel the story and by the ending, sections are only half a page long, heightening the drama and tension.

I read this on a flight but you might choose not to do so.