If it is possible to call a book about bio-terrorism entertaining, then WE ALL FALL DOWN is highly entertaining. The author sets the stage by using a line from the old nursery rhyme that dates from the seventeenth century. When I was teaching it to my children, it was something they enjoyed because they could all fall down, then get up again and repeat the process indefinitely. Recently, it has been exposed as a statement about the black death in England, taking the fun out of it. Plague kills quickly, appears seemingly from nowhere, and has devastating effects on the most vulnerable in a population. Wearing a garland of herbs to ward off disease didn’t work in the seventeenth century and there are no reliable methods for containing a plague in the twenty-first century. It is far easier to create a pathogen than it is to create a means to contain it, so Harvey’s book, like those of Michael Crichton, rely on nightmare scenarios. But nightmares made Alfred Hitchcock’s reputation.
Harvey begins the story with the breaking of a couple of light bulbs in an underground stop on the Chicago L. Inside the bulbs are bits of plague that can infect instantly and be passed from person to person. The entire city, the entire nation, the entire world can be devastated if someone on the Blue Line goes to O’Hare. Former cop and, now, private investigator Michael Kelly gets word of the potential disaster when a heavy from Homeland Security tells him he must work with a scientist who knows about bio-weapons or he will be charged with murder based on an incident in a previous book.
Kelly isn’t surprised that there is a disaster in the offing. He has dreams that give him hints of things about to happen and he is a student of Thucydides’s History of the Peloponnesian War. Thucydides does not stint on his descriptions of the plague in Athens circa 430 BC and Kelly feels free to quote the historian frequently. When Kelly is told by the mayor that it is his job to climb into the bio-hazard suit and check out the train tunnel while protecting the scientists, he does so with few qualms. The qualms come when it appears that the strain of plague in the tunnel might be a direct relative of a strain created in a Chicago lab.
Vying government agencies, the greed imperative, scientific competition, and corrupt politicians work together to put the poor of Chicago in danger. Is the story implausible? Yes. Is it impossible? No. A toxin was released into the public transit system in Japan in the nineties. The author refers to what is happening in WE ALL FALL DOWN as “black biology”, the creation of things over which no one can guarantee control and which can be devastating to an unsuspecting public. The story is more science fiction than I read but Harvey is a very entertaining writer. This book is a quick read and Harvey pulls the reader in by the end of the first paragraph.
I received this book through Amazon Vine