They All Fall Down
Tammy Cohen’s latest novel comes lavished with praise and rightly so. Unlike Erin Kelly, I didn’t devour it in one sitting, but like Lisa Jewell, I did find it “brilliant, twisty, masterful”. The set up is a variation on the locked room plot in which Hannah, once a happily married woman with a normal life, suddenly finds herself trapped in a psychiatric unit with an assortment of very damaged women. As the reason for her incarceration is revealed, the stakes are raised as her fellow inmates keep dying. The doctors in charge insist that it’s suicide but Hannah thinks there’s a killer on the loose.
The story is told from three main perspectives. There’s Hannah first person account, told in the present tense for maximum urgency. There’s her mother Corinne’s third person account, which offers insights into Hannah’s family background and finds her mother acting as amateur detective. And then there’s Laura, who works at the unit offering art therapy. There’s also a transcript from the documentary crew filming inside the unit. Slowly the various strands come together and the full picture is revealed.
Cohen writes beautifully, taking us inside the heads of her characters and moving things along at a gripping pace. There are plenty of twists and some truly chilling scenes. The book’s themes of motherhood and mental health are explored in full, without ever slowing down the action. It all adds up to an original, unsettling and deeply satisfying read.