Thursday, 5 July 2018

Book Review: IT ALL FALLS DOWN by Sheena Kamal

Author: Sheena Kamal
Publisher: William Morrow
Read: February 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Growing up, Nora Watts only knew one parent—her father. When he killed himself, she denied her grief and carried on with her life. Then a chance encounter with a veteran who knew him raises disturbing questions Nora can’t ignore—and dark emotions she can’t control. To make her peace with the past, she has to confront it.

Finding the truth about her father’s life and his violent death takes her from Vancouver to Detroit where Sam Watts grew up, far away from his people and the place of his birth. Thanks to a disastrous government policy starting in the 1950s, thousands of Canadian native children like Sam were adopted by American families. In the Motor City, Nora discovers that the circumstances surrounding Sam’s suicide are more unsettling than she’d imagined.

Yet no matter how far away Nora gets from Vancouver, she can’t shake trouble. Back in the Pacific Northwest, former police detective turned private investigator Jon Brazuca is looking into the overdose death of a billionaire’s mistress. His search uncovers a ruthless opiate ring and a startling connection to Nora, the infuriatingly distant woman he’d once tried to befriend. He has no way to warn or protect her, because she’s become a ghost, vanishing completely off the grid.

Focused on the mysterious events of her father’s past and the clues they provide to her own fractured identity and that of her estranged daughter, Nora may not be able to see the danger heading her way until it’s too late. But it’s not her father’s old ties that could get her killed—it’s her own.

My musings:

Nora Watts, the character Sheena Kamal created in her novel Eyes Like Mine (also Published under The Lost Ones), was one of my favourite protagonists of 2017 and I was really looking forward to meeting up with her again.

It is a very different Nora we see in Shamal’s latest novel It All Falls Down. After killing someone in order to rescue her daughter, Nora struggles not only with her conscience but has also lost the gift that had set her apart as an investigator – her ability to detect lies. She is now living with her friend and former boss Sebastian Crow, who is dying from cancer and trying to compile his memoirs with Nora’s help. She seems even more rootless and lost without her job as investigator, her dark past still haunting her. Already a very solitary and reserved character, she is becoming even more anti-social, if this is at all possible. So when the past catches up with her in the form of an old military buddy of her father’s, she grabs the opportunity to travel to Detroit, her father’s childhood home, to try and find out more about her parents’ past. As the daughter of an indigenous Canadian man who had been taken from his birth family and raised by adoptive parents, and a Palestinian refugee mother, who vanished without a trace when Nora was a child, she has many questions about her lineage that she thought would never be answered. She is especially haunted by the suicide of her father, which saw her sister and her being put into foster care and raised as a ward of the state.

The dark underbelly of Detroit offers a sinister backdrop to Nora’s search for truth, and a stark contrast to her Vancouver home. For a reader from a small remote country town, this setting was a huge eye-opener to me. With an industrial crisis hanging over the city, bringing high unemployment, drugs, violence, hopelessness and crime, Detroit seemed like a scary and joyless place to me. As soon as Nora starts digging into her father’s past, threatening to unearth some skeletons, she is attracting the attention of some very dangerous people, which sees her having to go on the run and fight for her life.

I was happy to see that Nora, despite her lost superpower, was still the brash, abrasive, badass character I had been so enamoured with in Kama’s first book. She also hasn’t lost her self-deprecating humour I had enjoyed so much. Whilst Nora does her best to keep everyone at arms’ length, including her readers, she is an irresistible protagonist. However, I felt that there was a link missing between Kamal’s first novel and this one, as the story makes a huge jump forward in time to a point where I felt that I had perhaps missed another book. Nora’s and Brazuca’s stories don’t tie together well in this one, and it all felt slightly disjointed to me. I also felt it more difficult to connect to the element of organised crime and gangland activity, which was so alien to me and did not have the same emotional pull as Nora’s first quest, of rescuing a child she had given up for adoption at birth. However, as Nora discovers some pieces of her parents’ past that put everything she has ever thought into doubt, I felt myself getting more intrigued.

Whilst I felt it a bit harder to connect to all the different characters in It All Falls Down than in Eyes Like Mine, and desperately missed Nora’s faithful companion Whisper, I still enjoyed this  plucky character and look forward to finding out more about her in the next book in the series. As a fair warning to readers, I feel that this book would not work well as a stand-alone novel and highly recommend reading the first book in the series before delving into this storyline. 

Thank you to Edelweiss and William Morrow for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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