Quotations from Mother Goose and Macbeth (as well as the Emily Dickinson snippet of the title) provide the chapter headings in this engaging novel of suspense. The apparent peculiarity of such juxtaposition brings home the brutality of those childhood rhymes and the dangers of obsession and revenge. Both serve Mary Willis Walker's purpose well in setting up this tightly constructed mystery in which investigative journalist Molly Cates's own obsession with her father's untimely death from 30 years before gets mixed up in a current and far more dangerous scheme to release chemical gases into the Senate chamber of the Texas Capitol. The two plots, the first a traditional mystery, the second more a tale of suspense, are unconnected except for Cates's involvement; she is obviously central to one and initially only tangential to the other. Such a device would have proved unwieldy in less skillful hands, but in Walker's case the disparate strands are brought together beautifully, and Cates has a suitable sense of her own fallibility and the difficulty of harboring hate for the better part of a generation.
Walker's previous three novels have won six mystery-writers awards among them. All the Dead Lie Down is solid enough to continue the tradition set by the others. Within it there is much to relish: sensitive consideration of homelessness, thought-provoking questions about gun control, and a wry appreciation for the charm and arrogance of the Lone Star State and its citizens ("Texans do not scrimp on stars."). Indeed, Walker's sense of place--from Lubbock's dust and dry desolation to Austin's trendiness and political maneuvering--is sure and confident. There are moments when the worst of the perpetrators of the chemical weapons scare is portrayed simplistically, but this is more than made up for by the complexity of the other characters: the vagrants who discover the danger as well as the ghosts, both past and present, who haunt Molly in her investigations of her father's past. An excellent read, for even the most jaded of mystery lovers.