We All Fall Down
The big-city mystery has a certain style and swagger that is easily recognizable. Fictional officers such as Harry Bosch, Steve Carella and Abe Lieberman capture a certain style as they solve crimes in a major urban environment. Michael Connelly's Bosch has worked both as a detective and, for a brief time, as a retired private investigator. Carella was the product of the late Ed McBain, working in Isola, a fictionalized version of Manhattan. Lieberman's work in Chicago was chronicled by the late Stuart Kaminsky. Each writer and each detective are the product of a metropolitan environment where crime-solving requires deft skills, including the ability to navigate treacherous political waters as well as negotiate the sensitivities of ethnic cultures and criminal milieus.
"Harvey captures the Chicago community in all of its strengths and weaknesses.... His writing is fast-paced, and his plots move briskly but still manage to take surprising twists and turns."
Michael Kelly, the main character in Michael Harvey's WE ALL FALL DOWN, is a former Chicago police officer now working as a private investigator. The passing of McBain and Kaminsky have created a gap in the ranks of gritty, rule-breaking investigators. This is Kelly's fourth appearance in a Harvey mystery, and both the character and the author appear to be hitting their stride and showing the potential for joining the top echelon of mystery thrillers.
WE ALL FALL DOWN begins where Harvey's last thriller, THE THIRD RAIL, ends. At the conclusion of that tale, anthrax-laced light bulbs were placed in the Chicago subway system. A devious criminal mind triggered the bulbs to explode at a future date long after his arrest or death. When the first bulb drops in WE ALL FALL DOWN, Kelly is called by national security biologists who have been summoned from Washington, D.C. to confront the possible chemical attack. While the suspected act of terrorism turns out to be a false alarm, citizens of Chicago's West Side start dying in large numbers. The city responds with quarantines and emergency measures, and Kelly finds himself knee-deep in death, drugs and Chicago politics.
As a former police officer turned private investigator, Kelly operates in the best of all worlds. His law enforcement connections allow him access to critical information, while his civilian status lets him circumvent many rules that public officials must follow. Kelly is just enough of a rebel to get the job done, but still enough of a mensch to make certain that the end result is justice.
Harvey has a brilliant grasp of Chicago. From its ethnic neighborhoods to its gang culture, both modern and historical, to its political traditions that allow the neighborhoods and the criminals to co-exist so long as the politicians receive their just due, Harvey captures the Chicago community in all of its strengths and weaknesses. He also portrays real Chicago characters in his novels. His writing is fast-paced, and his plots move briskly but still manage to take surprising twists and turns.
With the passing of Ed McBain and Stuart Kaminsky, a void in the big-city mystery thriller has opened. Michael Harvey is an ideal candidate to fill that gap. Hopefully, Michael Kelly will be working the streets of Chicago for many years to come.
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on July 12, 2011