WE ALL FALL DOWN by Michael Harvey
“I’d lied to Rachel. I knew what I feared. Knew why I feared it. I closed my eyes and they were there — two lightbulbs hanging in the darkness of the Chicago Subway. Inside their glass skin, a question mark. Â Something the old historian himself might struggle to decipher.”
Review by Eleanor BukowskyÂ (AUG 7, 2011)
Michael Harvey’s sequel to The Third Rail is We All Fall Down, in which PI Michael Kelly wears out a great deal of shoe leather trying to save the citizens of Chicago. An unidentified perpetrator may have released a biological weapon in the city’s subway system. When people begin to sicken and die, a highly trained team of brilliant scientists is called in to identify the substance (is it a strain of anthrax?) and try to find a way to contain it. Kelly is a student of Thucydides, who wrote eloquently about the Plague of Athens in his classic work, “History of the Peloponnesian War.” Kelly wonders whether, twenty-four hundred years later, a modern, man-made plague will decimate Chicago.
Harvey has been praised for his punchy prose style, clipped dialogue (“I don’t know.” “I have to go out.” “I’ll talk to you later.” You get the picture.), and his gritty take on a city that is legendary for its corrupt politicians, ruthless mobsters, gangbangers, and cops on the take. Although Kelly narrates, Harvey occasionally switches to the third person. For example, the author depicts an obnoxious racist named Donnie Quin, who comes from a long line of police officers but does not wear his uniform with pride. Instead, he is an extortionist who forces both legitimate and illegitimate businessmen (better known as drug dealers) to turn over part of their proceeds on a regular basis. He feels no guilt, since everyone knows that Chicago’s City Hall was “a fat, greedy, happy goose, taking in soft money at one end and cranking patronage deals out the other.”
How does Kelly fit in to all this? A sleazy guy from Homeland Security threatens to throw Kelly in jail on trumped-up charges unless the PI agrees to assist Ellen Brazile, “one of the foremost experts in the world on the genetic engineering of bioweapons.” Kelly powwows with Brazile and her team, the Mayor of Chicago, John J. Wilson, and the representative from Homeland Security. They try to come up with a game plan that will minimize loss of life without causing panic.
The prospect of “a molecular arms race,” in which “black biologists” create new strains of bacteria to use against their enemies is genuinely frightening. This novel has some neat bells and whistles–modern tools that can both create and neutralize “the most lethal pathogens known to man” and “smart clothing” made of nanofibers that can stop a bullet and release antiobiotics into the victim’s system. There are the usual violent confrontations, convoluted twists and turns, and a slam-bang ending in which a few loose ends are purposely left dangling. Although certain elements in We All Fall Down are far-fetched and confusing, Harvey manages to hold our interest thanks to his hard-hitting plot, sardonic dialogue, and his tough and savvy hero, Michael Kelly.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 13 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Knopf (July 12, 2011)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Michael Harvey|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||Read our review of:|
- The Chicago Way (August 2007)
- The Fifth Floor (August 2008)
- Third Rail (April 2010)
- We All Fall Down (July 2011)