Book Review: They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall was a great choice to kick off July! The story transports us to a tropical island off the coast of Mexico and pulled me in with its Agatha Christie meets Clue plot. Hall’s books have been on my to be read list for a long time and this was the perfect book to introduce me to her writing.

The story starts off introducing us to seven individuals, all strangers to one another. Each person has been given one reason or another about why they’re travelling to a remote island. All are convinced that the getaway is a once in a lifetime trip and nobody hesitates to accept the invitation. However, the real reason is far more sinister and no one knows what they are in for.

The first character we meet is Miriam Macy, a forty-five year old Black woman with high levels of anxiety. For the last two years she has struggled in the aftermath of her divorce from her husband, Billy, due to his affair with her daughter Morgan’s dance teacher. The other woman has effortlessly transitioned into the space vacated by Miriam, filling the void for both Billy and Morgan. We are given a glimpse into a recent scuffle between Miriam and her daughter’s former best friend, Brooke McAllister, which resulted in some sort of court battle.

Next, we encounter Wallace Zavaranella, a posh looking man who comes across extremely conceited and stuck-up. He and Miriam are the first to arrive at the small port and they do not quite hit it off. However, Miriam’s impression of Wallace changes sporadically throughout the book. He is bossy and seems to know more than anyone else about the real reason behind this little adventure. As the story progresses we learn that Wallace has a couple of incredibly dark secrets, including one he’s kept hidden for fifty years!

Desiree Scoggins, aka Desi, is a young, country girl from West Virginia. She portrays herself as innocent and backwoods, but we quickly learn that that’s not completely true. During a quiet conversation with Miriam we discover that Desi is a mean girl (think Regina George) and hopes to find a man she can manipulate over the weekend. Desi is not the brightest crayon in the box, but I think she is smarter than the group gives her credit for. She also has a secret about her marriage to an older man.

Another man arrives at port, who we later learn is Edward (aka Eddie) Sweeney, a former Boston police officer. Initially, he keeps to himself and Miriam grows suspicious of him because he always carries black duffle bags. Once aboard La Charon, the yacht transporting the guests to the remote island, Miriam catches Eddie in one of the rooms with some dangerous and deadly items. Why is Eddie really here? What is he planning? Eddie Sweeney has a troublesome past that will return to haunt him.

Evelyn is a chubby, older woman who was a nurse prior to visiting the island. She is single and homesick for her dog and mother back in New Mexico. Evelyn is extremely odd and nobody really understands why she was included in the group. She becomes an important character shortly after the guests arrive at Artemis, the mansion they will all be staying at for the weekend. Evelyn doesn’t speak much and we know very little about her. However, that changes quickly and in a shocking way!

Javier Cardoza is the executive chef for the group while staying at Artemis. He is beyond hyper and Miriam believes he might be a cocaine addict. He has eccentric tastes and is excited to make delicious and extravagant meals for everyone. Before the trip, Javier owned B.I.G., a restaurant off of the Vegas strip. Why isn’t he the chef anymore? What is he hiding?

Lastly, we are introduced to Franklin D. Clayton, a wealthy financial adviser from Dallas, Texas. He portrays himself as prim and proper, but when he is alone with Miriam she realizes he is a “closet brother.” He comes across slimy and sort of perverted. How did he make his money? Is he as straight-laced as he wants everyone to believe?

Upon arrival at Artemis, the guests observe a large table in the foyer that appears to depict the seven deadly sins, a figurine for each. The table becomes its own character throughout the story and at times it seems to have a life of its own. Which character belongs to which sin? Will the sins result in their deaths? There was a little easter egg at the beginning of the book that I made note of and was glad I did because it ended up being a very good clue!

As the story advances, characters start dying one by one, but nobody knows who the guilty party is! The group is cut off from the mainland and that means no internet, no cell signal, and even the satellite phones aren’t working. Everyone wants to know who is next and with each passing second we witness each character crumble under pressure. Everyone suspects one another of being a murderer and nobody knows who to trust.

One thing I loved about this book is that with each death, there are clues about who the killer is, but there are also a number of red herrings. It made it impossible to know who was committing the murders and gave me Agatha Christie vibes. Each death happened in a dark, twisted way that felt like a modern take on the game Clue. No candlesticks or lead pipes here! Just as the characters didn’t know who would be next, the readers didn’t either. This is what kept me hooked from start to finish because I just had to know! By the end of the novel we know everyone’s deep, dark secrets, the real reason why they were brought to Artemis, and exactly what connects them together.

Hall did a great job at writing about real-life issues like police brutality and the angry Black woman stereotype. She also made each character’s secret its own mini-episode of Dateline or 20/20. Each secret is something we’ve read about in the news and it brought a realness to the story. I also liked that none of the characters were particularly likable. They all had faults and I wasn’t rooting for one over another. However, I still found myself vested in the ending.

I definitely recommend this as your next summer read! The setting is the best summer location (aside from being completely cut off from civilization) and the book is a page-turner. I hope you all enjoy!

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