- Book: It All Falls Down
- Location: Detroit, Vancouver
- Author: Sheena Kamal
It All Falls Down is an excellent and well-worked thriller. Nora Watts is not your conventional hero. She works with drug dependent down and outs in Vancouver – and has dabbled herself. She has moved in with a male friend who is dying of cancer. One day she is approached in the street by a man claiming to have known her late father – a man who killed himself years previously. He had seen service with US forces in Lebanon, and returned to Detroit and then his native Canada. Something disturbing had happened to him in Lebanon. Memories are awoken for Nora and she decides to head to Detroit to see if she can find out more. She tracks down people who had known both her father and her mother (whom he met in Detroit, but had come from Lebanon) – and the mystery deepens. Someone, or some people, are not wanting her to find out more. She is brutally attacked a couple of times – but survives. She has to think on her feet. But what is the secret that is being protected?
Nora is a deeply flawed hero, existing in deeply flawed surroundings. Vancouver may well be a beautiful city, but there is a pretty rough underbelly. A culture of drugs and guns. The equivalent in Detroit is hardly an underbelly. A long time since Motown was at its height, much of the city is depressing and depressed with poverty and danger on every corner. Gangs run riot. [Incidentally one Sunday 15 years ago I walked six miles or so from the ring road around Detroit down to the quite smart harbour area. It was like going through a war zone…]. It All Falls Down captures the atmosphere of both Vancouver and Detroit in a way that pulls no punches.
I suspect a lot of Sheena Kamal’s own experience has gone into the book. She has been the researcher for a pretty dark TV crime series set in Toronto, and she had previously at University been awarded a scholarship for ‘community leadership and activism around the issue of homeliness’. She is someone who cares about poverty and deprivation.