Books·Canadian

We All Fall Down

A novel by Daniel Kalla.

Daniel Kalla

The plague has hit Italy. Can Dr. Alana Vaughn find the source in time to save the world?

No person is left unscathed, no family untouched. Death grows insatiable.

Alana Vaughn, an infectious diseases expert with NATO, is urgently summoned to Genoa by an ex-lover to examine a critically ill patient. She's stunned to discover that the illness is a recurrence of the Black Death. Alana soon suspects bioterrorism, but her WHO counterpart, Byron Menke, disagrees. In their desperate hunt to track down Patient Zero, they stumble across an 800-year-old monastery and a medieval journal that might hold the secret to the present-day outbreak. With the lethal disease spreading fast and no end in sight, it's a race against time to uncover the truth before millions die (From Simon & Schuster)

From the book

There he is again. Watching, always watching. Doesn't the old bastard have anything better to do? Vittoria Fornero wonders as she rolls up the blueprint and tucks it under her arm.

The little monk has shown up at the site every day since the first crew arrived to tear down the old monastery. As always, he's wearing a traditional black Benedictine habit with the hood down, exposing a wispy ring of white hair around his otherwise bald scalp. Every morning at about nine o'clock or so, he appears with a rusty fold-up chair held under one arm and a black satchel worn over the other. Sometimes he sips from a thermos or reads from a well-thumbed leather prayer book. But usually, like now, he just sits near the edge of the excavation pit and watches like a pigeon perched on a building's eave.

Most of the time the monk blends into the scenery along with the site's other fixtures such as the giant yellow diggers, piles of lumber, and mounds of rubble and rock. But this morning Vittoria has no tolerance for the uninvited spectator.

"Se n'è andata!" Vittoria calls out to him, as she bundles her flimsy windbreaker tighter to fight off another vicious chill. "Your relic, she is gone, old man, gone. And the funeral is over!"

In truth, Vittoria can still see the ancient brick and stone monastery in her mind's eye: a simple Romanesque structure that was already crumbling on the south side of the cloister where part of the attached arcade's roof had collapsed years before. Dilapidated as the monastery was, Vittoria had appreciated its decrepit charm. And even though she is an unrepentant atheist, she carries enough childhood memories of intimidating nuns to feel a bit uneasy over her role in having leveled the ancient house of worship.

The old monk responds to Vittoria's calculated belligerence with a friendly wave, making her question his hearing as much as she already does his sanity. Regardless, Vittoria isn't about to be appeased; not this morning, not after he has already compounded her workload and aggravated her piercing headache.

Vittoria wasted fifteen minutes in the cramped overheated trailer that passed for her office trying to calm one of the workers, a pimply-faced apprentice named Emilio.

"Listen to me, Emilio!" Vittoria cut him off in midsentence, unable to listen to another moment of his alarmism. "That freeloading monk is bitter about losing the roof over his head! Nothing more."

"But, Vittoria," Emilio muttered. "Brother Silvio . . . he says it's not just the monastery."

"What, then?"

"Brother Silvio, he says that the monastery . . . it is built on hallowed ground."

"To a monk, maybe. But to us it's just a construction site. No different from any other." Although, she silently conceded, the crypt below the monastery had come as a surprise. The excavators had not expected to unearth such a complex cellar, with its convoluted network of passages. And all those tiny bones. When Vittoria had first glimpsed them, she instinctively thought of her own two children. But she was in no mood to discuss medieval architecture.

"What about Yas?" Emilio asked.

"What about him?" Vittoria demanded, sounding more defensive than she intended.

"The day before last, Yas wasn't feeling so good," he said. "And then yesterday he didn't show up. I haven't seen him since."

"So what? He's probably just hungover."


From We All Fall Down by Daniel Kalla ©2019. Published by Simon & Schuster

Interviews with Daniel Kalla

Daniel Kalla talks to Shelagh Rogers about his new book, We All Fall Down. 16:09
"Nightfall Over Shanghai" is set in that city during World War Two. 5:46