Hot Best Seller

A Conspiracy of Tall Men

Availability: Ready to download

The debut literary thriller that launched the career of the bestselling author of BEFORE THE FALL and the creator of the show Fargo. Linus Owen is a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco. His marriage is foundering and his wife, Claudia, has gone to Chicago to visit her mother. But if Claudia is in Chicago, how is it that two FB The debut literary thriller that launched the career of the bestselling author of BEFORE THE FALL and the creator of the show Fargo. Linus Owen is a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco. His marriage is foundering and his wife, Claudia, has gone to Chicago to visit her mother. But if Claudia is in Chicago, how is it that two FBI agents show up at Linus' office and inform him that Claudia has been killed in a plane crash on her way from New York to Brazil? And why did a man named Jeffrey Holden, the vice president of a major pharmaceutical company, buy her ticket and die beside her? Enlisting the aid of two fellow conspiracy theorists, Linus heads across the country in search of answers. But as their journey progresses, it becomes frighteningly clear they've left the realm of the academic and are tangled up in a dangerous, multilayered cover-up. Finally, deep in the heart of the American desert, stunned by an ominous revelation, Linus sees he has a new mission: to try to stay alive. Part Don DeLillo, part Kurt Vonnegut, with writing that is electric, whip-smart and suspenseful at each turn, Noah Hawley draws us into a deliciously labyrinthine world of paranoia and plots. "Energetic and funny...an engrossing debut."--The New York Times


Compare

The debut literary thriller that launched the career of the bestselling author of BEFORE THE FALL and the creator of the show Fargo. Linus Owen is a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco. His marriage is foundering and his wife, Claudia, has gone to Chicago to visit her mother. But if Claudia is in Chicago, how is it that two FB The debut literary thriller that launched the career of the bestselling author of BEFORE THE FALL and the creator of the show Fargo. Linus Owen is a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco. His marriage is foundering and his wife, Claudia, has gone to Chicago to visit her mother. But if Claudia is in Chicago, how is it that two FBI agents show up at Linus' office and inform him that Claudia has been killed in a plane crash on her way from New York to Brazil? And why did a man named Jeffrey Holden, the vice president of a major pharmaceutical company, buy her ticket and die beside her? Enlisting the aid of two fellow conspiracy theorists, Linus heads across the country in search of answers. But as their journey progresses, it becomes frighteningly clear they've left the realm of the academic and are tangled up in a dangerous, multilayered cover-up. Finally, deep in the heart of the American desert, stunned by an ominous revelation, Linus sees he has a new mission: to try to stay alive. Part Don DeLillo, part Kurt Vonnegut, with writing that is electric, whip-smart and suspenseful at each turn, Noah Hawley draws us into a deliciously labyrinthine world of paranoia and plots. "Energetic and funny...an engrossing debut."--The New York Times

30 review for A Conspiracy of Tall Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede

    Before the Fall is a great book, so I was really looking forward to reading A Conspiracy of Tall Men. However, this book, well, to be honest, I couldn't finish it. Why? Let me explain: I would say that there is 25% story and the rest of the book is filler, details, unnecessary information about characters, both main and those that just show up pretty much to do a cameo. Let me give you an example: Linus, our hero in this book, meets a woman in this book and the book goes into detail about her pe Before the Fall is a great book, so I was really looking forward to reading A Conspiracy of Tall Men. However, this book, well, to be honest, I couldn't finish it. Why? Let me explain: I would say that there is 25% story and the rest of the book is filler, details, unnecessary information about characters, both main and those that just show up pretty much to do a cameo. Let me give you an example: Linus, our hero in this book, meets a woman in this book and the book goes into detail about her personal life. Why? She has no large part. I do not need to know that she is single and that she likes machines more than humans. All this information dump make my head tired... Then we have Linus and his two conspiracy friends. Sorry, but they are boring, yes you get A LOT of facts about them (just like everyone and everything else), but that doesn't make them interesting. I'm honestly surprised that Linus managed to find himself a wife in the first place... I gave up, I just couldn't get myself to finish the book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    Shock and horror: I had to DNF this one: ended skimming through the chapters because the action did not hold my interest. I go through phases - some genres turn me off (such as historical fiction, for example), whereas in my youth, right up until my mid-thirties, I loved historical fiction. Now, I turn green if my book club wants to review YET ANOTHER WORLD WAR I OR II NOVEL. I make rare exceptions (Julie Berry can write about the dinosaur era and I will willingly read anything she writes!) This Shock and horror: I had to DNF this one: ended skimming through the chapters because the action did not hold my interest. I go through phases - some genres turn me off (such as historical fiction, for example), whereas in my youth, right up until my mid-thirties, I loved historical fiction. Now, I turn green if my book club wants to review YET ANOTHER WORLD WAR I OR II NOVEL. I make rare exceptions (Julie Berry can write about the dinosaur era and I will willingly read anything she writes!) This had an interesting storyline, but I was not feeling it. I am so not into conspiracy theory books anymore. Sorry: the writing was excellent, as usual, but I was not up for this one. Don't let me dissuade you from reading this author's excellent work!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    A Well Written, Entertaining, Twisty Conspiracy Thriller So, I picked this up in a remainder bin and, before even starting to read it I looked at a few reviews. According to a bunch of them the book is overwritten, padded, wandering, and not nearly as good as the author's later published "Before the Fall". I was tempted to give the book a miss, except that the first page was so clever, deadpan edgy, and assured I had to keep going. Very glad I did. This is the same sort of paranoid, creepy, over t A Well Written, Entertaining, Twisty Conspiracy Thriller So, I picked this up in a remainder bin and, before even starting to read it I looked at a few reviews. According to a bunch of them the book is overwritten, padded, wandering, and not nearly as good as the author's later published "Before the Fall". I was tempted to give the book a miss, except that the first page was so clever, deadpan edgy, and assured I had to keep going. Very glad I did. This is the same sort of paranoid, creepy, over the top, goofy plausible, earnest silly global/government conspiracy you get from the X-Files' brilliant spinoff - The Lone Gunmen. By coincidence, (or maybe not?), there were three members of The Lone Gunmen and in this book there are three conspiracy hunting friends who track down the answers to the mystery. Every character in the book is a part of some conspiracy; every one is leading a double or triple life; everything is corrupt; everyone is being surveilled, taped, photographed, followed, observed, and recorded. It is an absolute cavalcade of conspiracy goodness. But the best part is that it is exceptionally well written. And it is not an ironic mockery of the genre; it plays fair and goes all in on the conspiracy angle. The protagonist, Linus, is a professional conspiracy theorist and his earnest belief in all things conspiratorial pulls the reader along. His vindication, that the conspiracies are real and that the paranoiacs are on to something, is treated with enough grave seriousness that the whole book works in its own fashion. And along the way we get some funny one-liners, a fair amount of noir tough guy talk, (apparently, all covert interrogators are really, secretly, deadpan comics), and some elegant and clever turns of phrase, set pieces, and throwaway observations. Some complain about too many digressions, but when those digressions are sharp and entertaining I'm O.K. with that. Here are a few cool lines, chosen more or less at random - "Los Angeles is a city that appears to have been built to satisfy somebody's desire for a cigarette." Or, "[the Los Angeles Airport]... is a country with a population of zero but an immigration problem of obscene proportions...". I'm sorry but I just love that kind of tough/dry/elegant stuff. So, sure, it's an over the top conspiracy thriller. But sometimes you want to read an over the top conspiracy thriller. And this one is so well written that it is head and shoulders above the usual big name author "commercial" fare. I count it a real find.

  4. 5 out of 5

    3 no 7

    A Conspiracy Of Tall Men, by Noah Hawley was written in 1998, but is just as relevant today if not more so. Linus Owen teaches conspiracy theory at a small college. When his wife is killed in a plane crash his world implodes. The action unfolds in the present tense, so readers are taken immediately into Owens’ world of conspiracy. Owens seeks to find answers about his wife and the crash and immediately crosses the thin paper wall that separates government powers from the people they are supposed A Conspiracy Of Tall Men, by Noah Hawley was written in 1998, but is just as relevant today if not more so. Linus Owen teaches conspiracy theory at a small college. When his wife is killed in a plane crash his world implodes. The action unfolds in the present tense, so readers are taken immediately into Owens’ world of conspiracy. Owens seeks to find answers about his wife and the crash and immediately crosses the thin paper wall that separates government powers from the people they are supposed to protect. He finds conspiracy at every turn. He ventures deep into the deserts of Arizona and Nevada only to encounter men who eat meat, think protein bars taste like dirt, and listen to unorthodox broadcasts over the radio. They bury people and guns in big holes in the desert. Oh, and Owen has grown two inches. At first, the plot appears to be only a compelling flashback to the abundant absurdity at time of its publication, 1998, with chemicals tests on people in the Nevada desert and biological weapons in the Gulf War; all that is missing is aluminum foil hats. However, as the complex conspiracy unfolds, talk of a widespread virus that infects entire populations, brings the world economy to a halt, invokes population unrest, initiated widespread unrest and violence, and allows the government to require medical testing and distribution of vaccines with minimal oversite. Suddenly readers feel they are in 2020.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sally Cartwright

    I was quite enjoying this book due to it being an unusual topic: Consoiravy theories are not normally my thing. However despite some good plot twists the ending was very unsatisying - I didn't realise it even was the ending until I turned the page. Disappointing for this reason. Not sure I'd rush to read another.... I was quite enjoying this book due to it being an unusual topic: Consoiravy theories are not normally my thing. However despite some good plot twists the ending was very unsatisying - I didn't realise it even was the ending until I turned the page. Disappointing for this reason. Not sure I'd rush to read another....

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jan Wylde

    Boy oh boy. Reading the other reviews (lower ratings) and still will keep my 5 stars. This book kept me up late at night and I did not wish to put it down. Even liked the ending!!! The writing is clever, complete and such a good character study. It's very creative. Anyone wish to bet this is gonna be a good movie?! Even daydreamed about who would play Linus and the nerdy buddies - ohhhh, so much fun!!! Oh, Mr Noah?! How about a sequel? Thank you so much for the entertainment! Boy oh boy. Reading the other reviews (lower ratings) and still will keep my 5 stars. This book kept me up late at night and I did not wish to put it down. Even liked the ending!!! The writing is clever, complete and such a good character study. It's very creative. Anyone wish to bet this is gonna be a good movie?! Even daydreamed about who would play Linus and the nerdy buddies - ohhhh, so much fun!!! Oh, Mr Noah?! How about a sequel? Thank you so much for the entertainment!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Basney

    A first book, written about 10 years ago, and republished after last year’s excellent Before the Fall. A disservice to everyone.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    This made no sense to me, what did I read? Reissuing this was a mistake.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Joe Kucharski

    Author/Creator/Director Noah Hawley. You know him. You dig him. From the trippy, mind-sprawling chaos of FX’s Legion to the Coen Bros-cool re-imagining of Fargo, Hawley gets deep, he gets fun, he gets weird. Following the success from his latest novel, Before The Fall, Grand Central Publishing reissued Hawley’s debut novel, A Conspiracy Of Tall Men. And man, this reads like a debut novel. Tall Men features Linus Owen, a conspiracy theory teacher who finds himself hit with two hard truths: his wif Author/Creator/Director Noah Hawley. You know him. You dig him. From the trippy, mind-sprawling chaos of FX’s Legion to the Coen Bros-cool re-imagining of Fargo, Hawley gets deep, he gets fun, he gets weird. Following the success from his latest novel, Before The Fall, Grand Central Publishing reissued Hawley’s debut novel, A Conspiracy Of Tall Men. And man, this reads like a debut novel. Tall Men features Linus Owen, a conspiracy theory teacher who finds himself hit with two hard truths: his wife has been having an affair, and now she’s dead. After a lifetime of living under the gun of suspicion, Linus goes looking for real answers and maybe the meaning of life. In a dazed trek across America worthy of Hunter S. Thompson, Linus seeks out an incendiary radio talk-show host, raids a big-time pharma company, is interrogated by the CIA, and comes to realize those two initial truths might be lies. The novel, like with many debuts, starts off strong with jazzy concepts and sarcastic bites. Yet, Hawley’s deep dive into the insane grows awkward. Some of the head scratching comes not with the narrative, but the poor grammar, the confusing spans of dialogue, and a ton of sentences that nerve-rackingly begin with “it.” Eventually, Linus’ paranoia become outright silly. The deeper the conspiracies go, the less X-Files hip the read becomes as the unglamorous quickly becomes bizarre. Hawley serves up a number of clever observations and uniquely provides background on his characters, granting even minor ones weight. Doing such, though, creates bloat. Like the conspiracies that Linus weaves out of echoes, the novel has too many false starts, too many feints, and a rushed finale. Unless that was the plan, man. The United States Corporation wants you to think this is all too silly. Right? Nope. The read was silly, confusing, and overly long. Thanks to Goodreads and Grand Central Publishing for the giveaway. I’m still a Noah Hawley fan and continue looking forward to his new seasons of Fargo and Legion. Check out my Read @ Joe's site for this review and much more!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roger

    Noah Hawley's A CONSPIRACY OF TALL MEN is intensely quirky, sometimes dense, and well-written throughout. Where else can you find a better description of Las Vegas than "as tacky as 1975"? The clever observations keep you reading but still the book seems overly long. Perhaps the protagonist, Linus Owen, is not enough to carry the storytelling burden over time. He is a unique character, not an especially likeable one. More probably, the multiple omnipresent conspiracies are too much. First off, co Noah Hawley's A CONSPIRACY OF TALL MEN is intensely quirky, sometimes dense, and well-written throughout. Where else can you find a better description of Las Vegas than "as tacky as 1975"? The clever observations keep you reading but still the book seems overly long. Perhaps the protagonist, Linus Owen, is not enough to carry the storytelling burden over time. He is a unique character, not an especially likeable one. More probably, the multiple omnipresent conspiracies are too much. First off, conspiracies are typically fantasy because it is unlikely any group of people can keep secrets for any length of time. That lessens the urgency of the conspiracies introduced in A CONSPIRACY OF TALL MEN. They simply seem dubious. Second, if we accept the existence of the suggested conspiracies, all-seeing plans perpetuated by layer upon layer of powerful men, then it is improbable that someone as ineffectual as Linus Owen could unravel the schemes. The book is set in the 1990s, a time of pay phones, VCRs and 1-900 sex lines that seems long ago but isn't really so. The action takes place as the information age is developing, as the internet and computer technology is emerging full force into everyday life. Whatever credence there is to the fight for truth conducted by Linus, Edward, and Roy in this book, it comes from the democratization of information created by the new technologies. Noah Hawley is the showrunner for the FARGO television series, a project that leaves indelible memories with the viewer. This novel is a worthwhile read, but not memorable. In retrospect I should have started with one of Hawley's other books, probably BEFORE THE FALL, which won an Edgar Award for Best Mystery in 2017. Finally, there are a few bits in this book that leave me scratching my head. Are they "Easter eggs" or simply evidence of poor proofreading? One example is an early reference to the Apollo moon landing of 1967. Another occurs much later in the book, when John Glenn is identified as coming from Arizona. Black helicopters, Ruby Ridge and Waco too. The Clintons to boot.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Danita L

    A Conspiracy of Tall Men was re-issued after the success of Before the Fall and should have just stayed in the background back in 1998. Although the book started wonderfully, with a secondary cast of Roy and Edward that was hilarious, it meandered off with over-lengthy descriptions that seemed to have no other purpose other than to create more pages. The tight paragraphs of Before the Fall were gone and boring sequences became the norm. Sometimes when a reader takes on an older published book by A Conspiracy of Tall Men was re-issued after the success of Before the Fall and should have just stayed in the background back in 1998. Although the book started wonderfully, with a secondary cast of Roy and Edward that was hilarious, it meandered off with over-lengthy descriptions that seemed to have no other purpose other than to create more pages. The tight paragraphs of Before the Fall were gone and boring sequences became the norm. Sometimes when a reader takes on an older published book by an author, you are delightfully surprised. Not so in this case. It didn't get to the "I wish I hadn't read it" stage as Hawley did show the sparks of a good writer that would appear in his later works but I could not in good conscience recommend this book to anyone.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Logan May

    *Spoiler Free* “People do not come to believe things after seeing them. They see things only when they already believe them.” I first discovered Noah Hawley through his hit television show Fargo on FX. An amazing series he revitalized through his snarky wit and dark humor. I then had to discover more, low, and behold he is also an author! Before the Fall was my first read, you can read my thoughts on that dreadful lull here. my link text I decided to give him a second chance and opted for his very *Spoiler Free* “People do not come to believe things after seeing them. They see things only when they already believe them.” I first discovered Noah Hawley through his hit television show Fargo on FX. An amazing series he revitalized through his snarky wit and dark humor. I then had to discover more, low, and behold he is also an author! Before the Fall was my first read, you can read my thoughts on that dreadful lull here. my link text I decided to give him a second chance and opted for his very first novel A Conspiracy of Tall Men. Expecting to be disappointed by the overbearing negative reviews on Goodreads, I was shocked. He is known for telling captivating stories and going well in-depth on each character within his world. To define character also means the setting in which the story takes place. Hawley gives you a vision and what may seem to marinate just a little longer than expected, immerses you into every nuanced idea that is presented. I was captivated from each chapter to another, not necessarily a vigorous page-turner but a need to know how this fate will end. I am usually extremely unsatisfied with endings however this was cleverly crafted. Not only did it subvert expectations, but it also stayed true to character. From one open-minded reader to another, I urge you to give this book a chance. I also believe this book NEEDS to be adopted for cinema. It would serve as a phenomenal journey on the Silver Screen.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Darlene

    An interesting book about government conspiracies. Although I enjoyed Noahs first book more than this Book, this book takes a look at some very plausible conspiracy plots and gives your mind a work out absorbing these theories. Is our government really watching out for best interests or is there something sinister going on. Who do we trust and who do we believe? When the book ends I'm not sure if we are to make our own ending or if there will be s sequel. I suggest when you read this book, go in An interesting book about government conspiracies. Although I enjoyed Noahs first book more than this Book, this book takes a look at some very plausible conspiracy plots and gives your mind a work out absorbing these theories. Is our government really watching out for best interests or is there something sinister going on. Who do we trust and who do we believe? When the book ends I'm not sure if we are to make our own ending or if there will be s sequel. I suggest when you read this book, go in to it with a very open mind.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Petersen

    Noah Hawley seems to be much less interested in story in this book than he is in ideas and the characters that both hold and embody them. It's fitting that the main character is just this sort of person -- more interested in ideas than action. In a way, the trajectory of the book follows this characters shift from passivity to action. In general, it would be a fair accusation to say this book is a little indulgent. Noah Hawley is not taking good care of his readers with the kind of liberties he Noah Hawley seems to be much less interested in story in this book than he is in ideas and the characters that both hold and embody them. It's fitting that the main character is just this sort of person -- more interested in ideas than action. In a way, the trajectory of the book follows this characters shift from passivity to action. In general, it would be a fair accusation to say this book is a little indulgent. Noah Hawley is not taking good care of his readers with the kind of liberties he clearly enjoys in this novel. That said, I love the way Hawley's brain works. His prose is beautiful, sometimes transcendent. He has an uncanny ability to establish place, tone, and texture with a creative efficiency I find downright enviable. The way this book is written is further proof that he's found his calling in the world of television, where his mind for details can reach it's full potential.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I had to DNF this a couple of times, but ended up just skimming and trudging through it. No doubt that Hawley is a great writer, I love his work on Fargo and his other books - Before the Fall, The Good Father and The Punch - but you can definitely tell that this is a debut. Hawley has a very unique and quirky writing style, but this one meanders way too much for me. I enjoyed the banter between Roy and Edward, though. In the end, kept going because I wanted to read all of Hawley's work (which I I had to DNF this a couple of times, but ended up just skimming and trudging through it. No doubt that Hawley is a great writer, I love his work on Fargo and his other books - Before the Fall, The Good Father and The Punch - but you can definitely tell that this is a debut. Hawley has a very unique and quirky writing style, but this one meanders way too much for me. I enjoyed the banter between Roy and Edward, though. In the end, kept going because I wanted to read all of Hawley's work (which I just have one more book of his to go!)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    Loved Before the Fall, but apparently this was written years before and I can only think it was published because of the Hawley's success with Before the Fall and his tv shows. Not worthy of his later works. Loved Before the Fall, but apparently this was written years before and I can only think it was published because of the Hawley's success with Before the Fall and his tv shows. Not worthy of his later works.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    After really enjoying "Before the Fall", this was such a huge disappointment. I'm not one to continue reading a book I dislike but I wanted to see if this got any better. Sadly, it didn't. The lead character (at least in my mind; there are other characters who could potentially be viewed as a lead character in this muddled mess), Linus, is the most unlikable character I've encountered in some time. I found it impossible to root for him. Overall this book is a let down after I thought I found a p After really enjoying "Before the Fall", this was such a huge disappointment. I'm not one to continue reading a book I dislike but I wanted to see if this got any better. Sadly, it didn't. The lead character (at least in my mind; there are other characters who could potentially be viewed as a lead character in this muddled mess), Linus, is the most unlikable character I've encountered in some time. I found it impossible to root for him. Overall this book is a let down after I thought I found a promising author. I just can't recommend this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Leea

    I didn't dislike or like this book...it was ok. Certainly not as good as the fall was. He captures the feel of the late 90s very well. I didn't dislike or like this book...it was ok. Certainly not as good as the fall was. He captures the feel of the late 90s very well.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Clark

    When you read a book by Noah Hawley, you have to be prepared for his unusual view of the world around us, which is bluntly honest with tough-in-cheek. For example, his description of Los Angeles: "Los Angeles is a city that appears to have been built to satisfy somebody's desire for a cigarette." Or, the Los Angeles airport: "It is an airport like all others, an automated conspiracy of moving floors and revolving luggage, where desperate clots of bodies in wrinkled clothing struggle to break out, When you read a book by Noah Hawley, you have to be prepared for his unusual view of the world around us, which is bluntly honest with tough-in-cheek. For example, his description of Los Angeles: "Los Angeles is a city that appears to have been built to satisfy somebody's desire for a cigarette." Or, the Los Angeles airport: "It is an airport like all others, an automated conspiracy of moving floors and revolving luggage, where desperate clots of bodies in wrinkled clothing struggle to break out, fighting their way through crowds of suitcase-laden optimists grappling to break in."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    Loved the other book I read by this author but this one though it sounded intriguing left me skipping paragraphs and then pages of writing

  21. 4 out of 5

    Rob

    3.5 stars. Your name is Linus Owen, & your marriage is vulnerable. It’s not exactly on the rocks, but you & your wife are definitely feeling some strain. You’re home in San Francisco, & your wife, Claudia, is visiting her parents in Chicago. You’re in your office at the university where you’re a professor in conspiracy theories, when two FBI agents show up with news that Claudia has been killed in a plane crash. She was, unbeknownst to you, traveling from New York to Brazil with a male pharmaceut 3.5 stars. Your name is Linus Owen, & your marriage is vulnerable. It’s not exactly on the rocks, but you & your wife are definitely feeling some strain. You’re home in San Francisco, & your wife, Claudia, is visiting her parents in Chicago. You’re in your office at the university where you’re a professor in conspiracy theories, when two FBI agents show up with news that Claudia has been killed in a plane crash. She was, unbeknownst to you, traveling from New York to Brazil with a male pharmaceutical rep (who had also bought her ticket) when a bomb destroyed their plane. What do you do if you’re Linus? In Noah Hawley’s satisfyingly twisty-turny debut, you embark on a journey to figure out exactly which forces have conspired to kill your wife. There’s a blurb on the back cover that calls A Conspiracy of Tall Men “a genre-buster,” & that descriptor is right on the money. It’s an exploration of marriage & loyalty, it’s a deep dive into America’s bizarre tendency to traffic in conspiracy theories, it’s a critique of corporate America, & it does all that in the form of a balls to the wall thriller. In the course of his mission, Linus collides with various acronymed entities (FBI, CIA, NSA, & one drug-addled agent who may be a member of all three) & travels far out of the Bay Area into the American Southwest as he tries to find a radical leftist who may hold the secret to Claudia’s death. There’s lots to love about this book – it’s one of my favorites so far this year, as well as the best of the three Noah Hawley books I’ve read – but what makes it work as well as it does is Linus himself. Thanks to the last four years, it’s easy to forget that some conspiracy theories aren’t totally far-fetched. Linus isn’t a QAnon nutjob. He’s reasonable, & he’s hugely empathetic. We feel his grief at the beginning, & we understand why he goes to such lengths to learn the truth about what happened to Claudia. It’s worth mentioning that Hawley created (and wrote a lot of) both Fargo & Legion for the FX network, & there’s a cleverness in this book that fans of those shows will recognize. It’s rare to find crisp page-turners as relevant as this one.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ellen

    Even though this book is 20 years old, it seems totally up to date. Hawley is quite good at this type of fiction, the style of which seems to have translated well into tv series for him.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Frances

    I had forgotten that I even had this book; but discovered it when I was adding Hawley's Before the Fall to my card catalog last year. This book was published in 1998 and is very much a first book, but quite fun. The central character, Linus, is a professor of conspiracy theories at a small college in San Rafael. It is very reminiscent of the X-Files and the Lone Gunmen, which I was very much in-to in 1998 also. I had forgotten that I even had this book; but discovered it when I was adding Hawley's Before the Fall to my card catalog last year. This book was published in 1998 and is very much a first book, but quite fun. The central character, Linus, is a professor of conspiracy theories at a small college in San Rafael. It is very reminiscent of the X-Files and the Lone Gunmen, which I was very much in-to in 1998 also.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Noah Hawley is one of my new favorite authors. And this is my third book of his that I have read. The first two were so much better than this one. Although it is evident here that he is a talented writer, his later offerings are so much more finely crafted. Here he tells a good story, but, at times, I felt so bogged down in minute details that I found it hard to continue. I kept losing interest. I believe that this was his first novel. It is a good point to know that he continues to improve.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan K (Plot & Characters Matter)

    A debut novel, this story is terrific as is the word smith abilities of the author. I couldn't put it down finishing the book in a matter of days. Great characters, subplots and twists and nicely paced too. In some ways it reminded me of the Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts movie minus the wacko character Mel plays. Good stuff all the way to the end A debut novel, this story is terrific as is the word smith abilities of the author. I couldn't put it down finishing the book in a matter of days. Great characters, subplots and twists and nicely paced too. In some ways it reminded me of the Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts movie minus the wacko character Mel plays. Good stuff all the way to the end

  26. 5 out of 5

    Melinda

    This is literally, hands down, my favorite book of all time. The first novel written by Hawley, his characters are flawed and endearing, and the story constantly keeps you guessing. A brilliant brilliant book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    christopherdrew

    1. I picked this up during the Wee Book days, when I'd sequester every interesting title that came through the shop for my own perusal, instead of putting it out immediately on the shelf; one of the perks of working at a used bookstore is that you can build yourself up a pretty decent personal library, if you're patient. As a friend of mine says, everything shows up again eventually; it's like a Sun Tzu, seeing-your-enemy-float-down-the-river kinda thing. Of course, my friend was saying it as a w 1. I picked this up during the Wee Book days, when I'd sequester every interesting title that came through the shop for my own perusal, instead of putting it out immediately on the shelf; one of the perks of working at a used bookstore is that you can build yourself up a pretty decent personal library, if you're patient. As a friend of mine says, everything shows up again eventually; it's like a Sun Tzu, seeing-your-enemy-float-down-the-river kinda thing. Of course, my friend was saying it as a way of helping me let go of this library that I've now been carting around for over a few decades, through three apartments, one house and a duplex. Moving with books SUUUUUCKS, but I'm committed (don't ask about my CD collection). Anyway: Noah Hawley wasn't the guy behind Fargo and Legion, back then; A Conspiracy of Tall Men just seemed like an interesting fictional excursion, and I remember grabbing it with about five other titles at the same time (all of which are still on my shelf, by the way), but this was the only one of them that I read when I got it home, and I loved it, and then I put it on the shelf, and promptly forgot about it. 2. I used to go DEEP on conspiracy theories. Keep in mind, this was before Q-Anon turned everyday life into a bad X-Files episode. Back in the day, before the internet was a thing, you'd have to get your fix by listening to late night radio broadcasts where bemused hosts would patiently listen to truck drivers on homemade speed talk about missing time and cattle mutilations, or mildly psychotic research assistants break NDA's to warn us about impending intra-dimensional incursions, or bong-heavy Satanists exposing political leaders as vat-grown clones created by the lizard people. I had my own 'breakthrough' moment where my fiction started speaking to me directly (try reading The Invisibles, watching The Matrix, and playing Metal Gear Solid at the same time and tell me you won't come out with an...altered perspective) and for a while afterwards I was almost convinced that cells of ontological freedom fighters were trying to recruit my friends and I into a guerrilla war against the forces of Control and Order and Insert Your Favourite Enemy Here, that would hopefully culminate in a mass spiritual awakening, as we collectively blossomed into superbeings, ascending into the supercontext to take on the next challenge that presented itself to our now evolved and shining self/selves, because nothing ever ends, right? Yes, I listened to a lot of Tool at the time. Eventually, though, I went back to work. Had a life, of sorts. Stopped seeing everyone around me as possible sleeper agents and Men In Black, recognized that my imagination was simply filling a hole, a lack of adventure that my lifelong love of weird fiction had supposedly promised me (or perhaps that I'd just envied). I still enjoyed hearing about conspiracy theories, but kept it all at an arm's length. 3. I do this thing, sometimes, where I'll cast the movie of the book in my head. I see Jay Baruchel as Linus Owen, all wilted sarcasm in the face of both grief and persecution; Nick Offerman and Thomas Middleditch as his fellow conspiracy theorists Roy and Edward; J.K. Simmons as FBI/CIA/WTF agent Forbes, Stephen Root as Unabomber-wannabe Preston; Justin Theroux as Ford Owen, the better-looking, more successful, more normal version of Linus. I can't get a read on Claudia, Linus' wife. I think this is because she's a non-entity for most of the book, (spoilers: she dies, but it's in the second chapter, and the story's supposed to be about Linus reckoning with grief and paranoia in regards to her death, so, I mean, I'm not really spoiling anything?) but I hope it's not indicative of some kind of inherent trait I have (or lack) in regards to the importance of female characters in my fiction? We'll see. Anyway: Hollywood: there you go. 4. I remember liking this book. Upon rereading, I like it a lot more. It's a good demonstration of how For all of it's conspiratorial trappings, it's very much grounded in the real world. Hawley's got a knack for tangential backstories that help inform motivations without being too transparent about it; it's not 'if x, then y', but rather 'back in the 70's, x had a golden retriever that eventually got rabies, so x's father made x put the dog down with a Springfield rifle that x's small frame wasn't strong enough to handle, so the recoil gave him a sprained shoulder; now an ex-army sniper, every time x looks down the scope of his rifle, he thinks about that dog, and squeezes the trigger in some transubstantial attempt to cancel out that original shot way back when; through the scope, y is having dinner with her husband, and laughs at a joke that x cannot hear." Okay maybe it's not like that. Or maybe it is, but better. I dunno. We could get into a discussion about how conspiracy theories help us establish a sense of control over our lives that an uncaring and chaotic universe refuses to allow, or how sometimes such weird and outlandish claims seem more black and white and easier to digest than the reality we're faced with, but what I'm really touched by is just how comfortable Hawley's writing makes me feel. It's not a perfect book (I'm not sure about the ending, and some of the characters are just kinda left to hang), but it's effortless to read, and clever and funny and sometimes downright terrifying, and now I have to track down more of Hawley's work. Have you watched Legion? You should watch Legion, it's pretty fantastic. 9/10 would def eat here again, as long as no government agents were tampering with my water.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I’ve always been a bit paranoid, much in part to several viewings of “All The President’s Men” and “JFK” as an impressionable teenager, and several marijuana-influenced situations I wound up in during my experimental 20’s (*cough* and beyond). I often found myself questioning what seemed to be airtight scenarios, or creating alternate versions of them, not to mention convince myself that I was being monitored in some way, shape or form (and this was long before the whole Facebook data scandal). I’ve always been a bit paranoid, much in part to several viewings of “All The President’s Men” and “JFK” as an impressionable teenager, and several marijuana-influenced situations I wound up in during my experimental 20’s (*cough* and beyond). I often found myself questioning what seemed to be airtight scenarios, or creating alternate versions of them, not to mention convince myself that I was being monitored in some way, shape or form (and this was long before the whole Facebook data scandal). That said I never imagined one could make a career of it – better still, as a conspiracy theorist – without ending up in the middle of nowhere in Montana, dressed in a hoodie and aviators, scribing a senseless manifesto. Linus Owen, the central figure of Noah Hawley’s debut, A Conspiracy of Tall Men, is the exception to my own theory, a man who has somehow twisted his hobby into a professorship. That’s not saying he’s far off from becoming the next Unabomber, though that’s neither here nor there when it comes to the plot that drives Hawley’s thriller. Linus is in midst of a near-failed marriage; his wife, Claudia, has jettisoned to New York for work (she’s an ambitious ad exec), extending her trip to visit her mother in Chicago. Or so Linus thinks. Two FBI agents show up at the small college where Linus teaches, informing him that Claudia has been killed in a plane crash on a flight from New York to Brazil. What’s more, she was flying alongside a man named Jeffrey Holden; Linus learns this is not only the client to which Claudia works for, but that he purchased her ticket. Were they having an affair? Were they fleeing the country? As is his nature, Linus questions everything; soon he is coming up with conspiracy theories of his own to solve his wife’s murder. The remainder of A Conspiracy of Tall Men follows Linus’s journey, replete with an estranged family member (his religious, arrogant, investment banker brother Ford), a drug addicted federal agent (Forbes), comedic foil fellow theorists (Roy & Edward), and a faction of insane genius anarchists (the group Danton, made up of Porter and the Unabomber-esque Preston). The plot itself is compelling, a twisting and turning roller coaster of suspense much like Hawley’s subsequent efforts. Where it stumbles, however, is in its character development; overdevelopment would be more accurate. Too often does Hawley overwrite his ensemble, offering meandering passages on each of his cast members’ backgrounds that provide little more than fodder. It’s a common trait of first novels, one that’s easily fixable, and one that Hawley most certainly has improved upon (Before the Fall, for instance, is near-perfect). If anything, A Conspiracy of Tall Men is a promising snapshot of what’s to come.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Janie Hickok Siess

    It's the end of the 20th century and Y2K is fast approaching. Linus Owen, a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco, and his wife, Claudia, an advertising executive, live in nearby San Rafael. Linus believes that his is a happy marriage and when Claudia goes to Chicago for a few days to visit her mother, he is not suspicious. Until, that is, two FBI agents arrive at his office with news. Claudia has been killed. A plane bound from NYC to Brazil exploded It's the end of the 20th century and Y2K is fast approaching. Linus Owen, a young professor of conspiracy theory at a small college just outside San Francisco, and his wife, Claudia, an advertising executive, live in nearby San Rafael. Linus believes that his is a happy marriage and when Claudia goes to Chicago for a few days to visit her mother, he is not suspicious. Until, that is, two FBI agents arrive at his office with news. Claudia has been killed. A plane bound from NYC to Brazil exploded, killing all on board. They insist that Claudia was on the plane with a man named Jeffrey Holden and Linus must accompany them to Florida to identify her body. Holden was the vice president of a pharmaceutical company. So begins a fast-paced adventure with quirky Linus to discover what really happened to Claudia -- Why was she in NYC, much less on a plane headed for Brazil? What was the nature of her relationship with Holden? Who would want to blow up the plane -- and why? Linus's two bestimmplifriends are eccentric fellow conspiracy theorists, Edward and Roy. They spring into action to assist Linus, and the three men find themselves embroiled in a mystery involving several agencies of the U.S. government, as well as a cast of supporting characters -- some nefarious -- each of whom holds a piece of the puzzle. Their journey takes them into the Southwest desert regions in search of a mysterious fringe group led by a former radio talk show host who disappeared years ago, as well as isolated regions of Nevada where locals are mysteriously disappearing and turning up dead. Linus knows that he is not crazy -- he has stumbled onto a conspiracy in which officials at the highest levels of government and industry are implicated, but he has to stay alive long enough to gather and publicize the details. The result is an epic, breakneck-paced journey for all three men that will keep readers guessing until the final shockingly dramatic page! And leads readers wondering whether Hawley's plot could be real. Although the story is set nearly a decade ago, it is no less relevant now than it was then. In fact, in light of current events, including headlines about foreign government cyber hacks, it is arguably more alarming -- and entertaining. Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richard Cox

    As an author myself, it's interesting to understand why certain readers enjoy certain novels. Over time I've come to believe the expectation a reader has for the work plays a large part of how that person reacts to reading it. Even books that seem awful to me find readers who reward them with five stars. It's obvious that quality is in the brain of the beholder, but the more interesting question is how to find the proper readers for your work. When this novel was published in 1998, how was it mark As an author myself, it's interesting to understand why certain readers enjoy certain novels. Over time I've come to believe the expectation a reader has for the work plays a large part of how that person reacts to reading it. Even books that seem awful to me find readers who reward them with five stars. It's obvious that quality is in the brain of the beholder, but the more interesting question is how to find the proper readers for your work. When this novel was published in 1998, how was it marketed? Who found it? Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus reviewed it well, and the NY Times even published a review, which would seem to bode well for a first novel. I would have killed for similar press for my debut. But as far as I can tell, the novel didn't find much of an audience. Is that because the storyline and cover made it seem like a genre novel, but the content was more cerebral and literary than what one expects to find in genre fiction? Of course, in the years since this novel was published, the author has found big success in television, which helped drive interest in his fiction, and his most recent novel became a big hit. That success led to some of his earlier works being republished. But the reader reviews of these earlier novels are all over the board. Some readers love them, some hate them. I happen to love this novel, almost as much as Before the Fall, primarily for its humorous take on conspiracies and because of its attention to character. Hawley also devotes great attention to his phrasing and cadence, which is something unusual for the subject matter. If you're looking for pure conspiracy fun, you might not appreciate it. If you're looking for a conventional literary novel, you might be put off by the subject matter. To me, Hawley hits the sweet spot of mining an interesting topic and world view in a clever, and well-written way. Yes, the story is farfetched (if you are not a believer in large-scope conspiracies), but it's not totally implausible. In fact, much of what Hawley has written about in this novel has become mainstream in 2020. But you could also read this novel as a sendup of the conspiracy thriller. That there is no one answer is part of the point, I suspect. And I love it for that. I wish I could find more novels like this. It's exactly the sort of fiction I like to write, if I may be so bold. When I read Noah Hawley I feel like I'm reading myself. Which is both strange and awesome. If you like this sort of thing, you should check him out. I've read them all now except for Other People's Weddings, which I just started. Highly impressed.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...