“They All Fall Down” by Rachel Howzell Hall keeps some secrets closely hidden, while others — like the title — are out there for everyone to see. And when Miriam Macy sails to the luxurious mansion on Mictlan, an isolated island in Mexico, she keeps her secrets hidden almost to the end. But what about the other six people on the island? And what about the fact that the pretense for luring her to the island was just that, a pretense?
Miriam and some of the others were lured to the island by someone who knew them, who knew the deepest darkest secrets each of the visitors was hiding. In fact, all too quickly, fatal accidents occur while the reader is observing the action through the eyes of Miriam. Miriam is a fascinating main character. She is easy to dislike. She lies constantly — to her ex-husband, to her now-estranged daughter, to her lawyer (who has not been returning her calls), and to the police. She even lies to herself.
Miriam takes pills to control her anxiety, and she drinks to calm down. She is jealous of the younger woman at the mansion, and she greedily wants to collect money to improve her now-reduced lifestyle. But at the same time, Miriam is charming, and the first person narrative and the letters she composes to her daughter on her phone, which remain unsent because there is no internet on the island, give the reader insight into how Miriam changes over the course of the short two-day visit to the beautiful mansion, Artemis. The choice of Artemis as the name of the mansion is interesting. Is it because Artemis is the goddess of chastity and purity or because Artemis was also a goddess who believed strongly in revenge? The reader will decide.
The reader travels with Miriam from sunny California to Mexico and — thanks to Hall’s writing — becomes immersed in what Miriam is thinking and experiencing. While much of the book is a lovely murder mystery a la Agatha Christie, there are also some beautiful metaphors about the people and the situation and life. Miriam, traveling to the cliff atop which the mansion is perched, says, “I was a child of Southern California, land of fire, earthquakes, and bluffs carved by the Pacific Ocean. I knew cliffs and just how far to go.”
The ending is strangely satisfying and horrifying at the same time. Artemis, and the puppet-master who has been controlling the strings all along, win. Does a much-changed Miriam make it back to her family and a new life? Read the book — you won’t regret it.
This review was originally published on Bookreporter.com.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher Forge, for review purposes.