Book review: Downfall by Jeff Abbott


Unaware that this novel is the third in the ‘Sam Capra’ series, choosing to read Downfall by Jeff Abbott was also an unusual read for me based on its thriller genre. Sam Capra, an ex-CIA agent, soon gets drawn back into a world of secret organisations that are trying to manipulate the country by controlling their most advantageous, wealthiest and intelligent members. Sam Capra uncovers this secret network through the pivotal point in which Diana Keene, daughter of a dying member within the secret network, cries to him; ‘Help me!’.

Downfall is fantastical, which is probably my favourite thing about the novel. Despite its length, the book encompasses around a week of Sam Capra’s life. Between murders, police investigations, attempted poisonings in Las Vegas, high-speed car chases and helicopters that crash into houses, too many large-scale events happen for this novel to be even slightly believable. Abbott has used this to his strength and has delivered a novel that is fast-paced, intriguing and unpredictable. I particularly enjoyed the impact of the narrative; having to close the book and take a moment to digest what had occurred within a few sentences. I wish I could have read this novel as rapidly as its events occurred. Thrillers aren’t usually my thing but Abbott has written a true page turner.

Perhaps it’s because Abbott assumes the reader already has enough background knowledge to connect with the characters, but with so many figures to familiarise yourself with, it is quite difficult to become emotionally attached to any of them at all. What the novel lacks in emotional connection, however, is compensated for in the chilling way Abbot challenges the moral positioning of its characters and inherently, the viewpoint of the reader. Sam Capra appears to be the force of good in a world of mini-Faust; a group including mothers who justify murders with the greater good for their children, lovers who are tempted to stray and silent underdogs who betray the very few friendships they have. Abbot is an irresistible writer as he never instructs who the reader should empathise with or feel sympathy for. An excellent villain is created within Belias; an omnipotent figure that holds this wickedly deceptive plot together, wielding the world around him to benefit his chosen ones.

True to its title, each of the characters, their accomplices and their victims suffer a devastating downfall – with betrayal at its crux. With a latent focus on the innocence of children, Downfall questions what exactly it means to be good, to carry out good actions and ultimately what it means to lead a good life. As Sam Capra concludes:

“I still wanted to be the man who tore those masks free from the shadows. For Daniel, for all the kids. Holly and Glenn and Janice had made the mistake of thinking only of a better house, a better school, a better career.

I wanted, for Daniel, a better world.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, its challenges and its implicit questioning of good and evil. I really recommend it and I will be returning to the Sam Capra series from its first instalment.

Originally written for NUBI Magazine.


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