Review: Rachel Howzell Hall writes a breakout novel
After four well-received novels about LAPD homicide cop Elouise “Lou” Norton, Rachel Howzell Hall confidently delivers a highly entertaining stand-alone that pays homage to Agatha Christie while finding its own individual approach.
Hall’s “They All Fall Down” uses the same set up as Christie’s classic “And Then There Were None” in which strangers are lured to an isolated island and then start dying. But the Christie homage quickly morphs into Hall’s perspective with a diverse cast of characters and her own spin on the plot.
The narrator of “They All Fall Down” is Miriam “Mimi” Macy, who is probably the last person anyone would want to be marooned with, even in a mansion as nice as the one on Mictlan Island near Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico. The vain, anxiety-riddled Mimi is consumed with jealousy and hatred. Every conversation and minor slight becomes a challenge for her to pushback, or to plan revenge, as she is incapable of letting anything go. Her attitude has caused her husband to leave her, wrecked the relationship with their daughter and gotten her fired. The police also want to question her regarding an incident that may have led to a death, and a neighbor may be suing her.
Yet Mimi may be the weekend’s most congenial guest. The others include a former policeman, a chef, a financial adviser, a nurse, a lawyer, and a young widow. They’ve all been lured to the island for different reasons–Mimi thinks she will be on a reality TV show. Actually, each has been brought there by their late attorney, Phillip Omeke, who leaves a letter promising that by the end of the weekend each will be remembered in his will. That promise may hinge on who’s still alive as one by one the guests begin dying. Each’s secrets, and reason for being invited to the island, are carefully doled out.
As she does in her series, Hall delivers a racially diverse group of characters with contemporary sensibilities. At the same time, “They All Fall Down” adheres to the classic plot twists established by Christie.
While Hall’s series is superb, “They All Fall Down” should be her breakout novel.
— Oline H. Cogdill, AP
“They All Fall Down”
Rachel Howzell Hall