Downfall (Joel Williams 4) by Margot Kinberg

Did he fall or was he pushed?

😀 😀 😀 😀

While playing truant from school, a teenage boy climbs the scaffolding on a nearby construction site, and falls to his death. The police investigate, but there are no suspicious circumstances and no apparent motive for anyone to have wanted to harm Curtis, so it’s filed as a tragic accident. Two years later, Joel Williams, ex-cop turned University professor, is carrying out research along with two colleagues into a for-profit organisation that provides schools for young people viewed as at-risk. This organisation, Second Chance, runs the school from which Curtis truanted that day. As Joel and his colleagues dig into the organisation’s records, they notice some odd discrepancies that start them wondering if there might have been more to Curtis’ death than had been thought…

I shall start with my usual disclaimer: regular visitors will be well aware that Margot and I are long-time blog buddies, so you will have to assume that there may be a level of bias in this review, but as always I shall try to be as honest as I can.

This is Joel Williams’ fourth outing, so his character is well established by now. His police background means he still has contacts on the force, so when he finds himself involved in investigations, his old colleagues are generally happy to have him help out. As a result, the books have a good mix of being part police procedural, part amateur detective, while still feeling realistic and credible. Joel is no maverick – he works with the police, handing over any information he finds promptly, and leaving the serving officers to carry out formal interviews, arrests, etc. Joel is also pleasingly normal, with a stable home life, and a job that he enjoys.

In this one, there are two connected strands. At the same time as Joel is researching Second Chance, another organisation is offering to make a substantial donation to the University of Tilton where he works, in return for being allowed to set up a permanent research facility on methods of providing services designed to keep troubled young people from ending up in jail. So we see Joel struggling to decide whether such organisations can really be run with the best interest of students at heart, or whether corners will be cut in pursuit of profit. His research into Second Chance and the events of the story will feed into his eventual decision whether to support the new initiative. I found this aspect of the book particularly interesting because I worked for some years in a not dissimilar for-profit organisation and struggled with some of the same questions, though fortunately none of our pupils or colleagues were murdered!

Because of the research angle, the book takes us off campus this time, giving us a wider picture of Philadelphia with its mix of affluent and more deprived neighbourhoods. As Joel and his fellow researchers look into Second Chance, we get some insight into how organisations like this are funded and monitored, and Kinberg gives an even-handed picture of the benefits and potential pitfalls of these kind of semi-detached facilities. And she doesn’t lose sight of the fact that at the heart of the story is the tragic death of a young boy, allowing us to see the effects of this on his mother and friends.

Margot Kinberg

Another interesting story from Kinberg that, partly because of the age of the victim, felt a little darker to me than her last book. In truth, I had a good idea of whodunit from fairly early on since the pool of suspects isn’t large, but the interest of the book is more in watching how Joel and the police go about getting enough evidence to prove that Curtis was killed and to make a charge stick. One that has enough of the police procedural about it to appeal to fans of that genre, but with the added element of Joel’s amateur involvement allowing it to retain a feeling of the traditional mystery novel too. Recommended, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Joel’s investigations in future novels.

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34 thoughts on “Downfall (Joel Williams 4) by Margot Kinberg

  1. I am so behind with my reading, but I will read Margot’s books (I have two of them waiting). I love her blog and your review shows I’ll enjoy her book too.


  2. Thank you, FictionFan 😊 – I’m so very glad you enjoyed this. And it means a lot to me that you took the time to read and post about it .


    • I know! And so welcome – I’ve had my fill of drunken mavericks! 😉 Thank you – I think I’ve said it before, but I find reviewing friends’ books incredibly hard… I’m just lucky I have such talented blog buddies. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats, Margot, on getting another published; and FF, you’re a GOOD friend for putting such a fair and balanced review out there! Can’t stress enough how important reviews are for an author’s career. This sounds like a good read — drat, my TBR is going the wrong way again!


    • Thanks, Debbie! I can never convince myself that reviews do any good, but so many writers think they do, they must be right. I’m just lucky I have such talented blog buddies… 😀


  4. This sounds like a fascinating and well thought out story with credible characters – all too much of a rarity in fiction these days. Big congrats to Margot and a pat on the back to you too, FF – this is a very fair and balanced review 🙂


      • I’m a bit nervous about this obviously. Here’s an exclusive for you – Sinister Dexter is the last one to be written in FPPT. It’s all change after this. I wonder who convinced me… 😉


        • Woohoo! That is exciting news!! I may have to turn a couple of double somersaults!! *looks up number for osteopath in readiness* I’m looking forward to Sinister Dexter – did you know BigSister has read the earlier ones too? She’s also waiting for this one… 😀


  5. Like you, I’m finding myself getting better and better at figuring out ‘whodunit’ early on in novels like this, but I don’t think that’s always the point of these books-sometimes the journey is better than the destination for sure!


    • Yes, there always has to be a balance between the mystery aspect and the underlying story. In this one, the story about this kind of school definitely seemed more important than the mystery element, which worked well for me since it’s a subject I’m interested in. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So many mystery novels could be set at the University of Notre Dame. People have accidents here all the time: the kids who fell off a scissor lift while recording football practice, the guy who fell down the stairs to the dome, the construction worker who had a tree fall on him, the graduating senior who climbed the stadium on a dare (the weekend of graduation) and fell off. These are all within the last 6 or so years.


    • Good heavens! It sounds like a dangerous place to be! Universities are great venues for crime fiction though – so many different “types” all crowded together. Lots of room for nice motives… 😀


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