Over his previous three novels (all of them released in the past four years), Harvey has proven himself to be an apt storyteller in the Chicago mystery tradition. His books – with private detective and former cop Michael Kelly at the centre – twist their plots around the graft and corruption at the heart of Chicago’s government and, Harvey would say, soul.
But that story can get pretty hackneyed quickly, and Harvey seems well aware of this in this new novel, which ups the ante so high he nearly knocks the reader out of the game.
The book begins with word that a deadly pathogen has been released at a Chicago station. Kelly is called in and bullied into helping Homeland Security, which has set up a hot zone in the station. The mayor, Homeland Security and the scientists testing the station all give Kelly about a fifth of the story, and proclaim everything is fine. But nothing carries disease like public transportation: as more and more Chicagoans die, the conspiracy expands to collect an array of surprising villains.
In some ways, We All Fall Down feels like that new season of 24 for which no one was clamouring, but Harvey deserves credit for the sheer ambition of this book. It’s one thing to write a story about Chicago corruption, but it’s quite another to examine the ways that corruption could affect a large-scale crisis. And the turns the plot takes are organically hairpin and surprising.