Book Review: Motor City Shakedown




Author: D. (Dan) E. Johnson

Publisher: Minotaur, September 2011

Genre: Historical Mystery

My Rating: A


Detroit, 1911. Seven months have passed since Will Anderson’s friend, Wesley McRae, was brutally murdered, and Will and the woman he loves, Elizabeth Hume, barely escaped with their lives. Will’s hand, horribly disfigured from the sulfuric acid he used to help save them, causes him constant pain, forcing him into a morphine addiction. He lives for nothing except revenge against the people who contributed to Wesley’s murder—first among them crime boss Vito Adamo.

When Will stumbles upon the bloody body of Adamo’s driver, he knows he’ll be a suspect, particularly since he was spotted outside the dead man’s apartment that same night. He sets out to find the killer, and the trail leads him to a vast conspiracy in an underworld populated by gangsters, union organizers, crooked cops, and lawyers. Worse, it places him directly in the middle of Detroit’s first mob war. The Teamsters want a piece of Will’s father’s car company, Detroit Electric, and the Gianolla gang is there to be sure they get it.

To save their families, Will and his ex-fiancée Elizabeth Hume enlist the help of Detroit Police Detective Riordan, the teenage members of what will one day be known as the Purple Gang, and Vito Adamo himself. They careen from one danger to the next, surviving shootouts, kidnappings and police brutality, while barreling toward a devastating climax readers won’t soon forget.

My thoughts:

I’m excited about this story. It was a solid mystery set in the early twentieth century. You don’t see a lot of stories set in this era. I may be prejudiced because I like this time period. My grandfather was a teenager during then and this story reminded me of the stories he told about his early life. The author of Motor City Shakedown did the same thing my grandfather did – he put me right there. I could see the streets, the buildings, the interiors, the clothes, what people looked like and so forth.

I liked the fact that the characters weren’t perfect. The main character actually had an addiction to morphine. Keeping supplied with morphine and revenge are the things that drive this guy. Although the main character is the son of the man who owns one of the early car companies, the demons that drive him keep him in the underworld of mobsters, gangs, and the unions fighting to establish themselves.

I could tell the author did a lot of research, but he didn’t put that in front of this gritty story. This is book number two for the series but it stands alone beautifully. Now that I’ve read this one, I want to go back and read the author’s first book.

About the author:

D.E. (Dan) Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood but had to hit his midlife crisis to get serious about it. His first novel, a historical mystery entitled The Detroit Electric Scheme, was published in September 2010 by St. Martin’s Minotaur Books. The Detroit Electric Scheme has garnered excellent reviews (including being named one of Booklist’s Top Ten First Crime Novels of the year) and also won a 2011 Michigan Notable Book Award.

Motor City Shakedown, the first sequel to The Detroit Electric Scheme, will be published by St. Martin’s in September 2011. Dan is married, has three daughters, and lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan. For more info, visit Dan’s website,

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. For other reviews on Motor City Shakedown visit the schedule here: TLC Book Tours

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10 Responses to Book Review: Motor City Shakedown

  1. This sounds very gritty! I’m surprised at your reaction!

  2. I’m with you I find this time period fascinating. I’m not always a fan of gritty but this sounds really good. And since I’m OCD about it I think I’ll pick up the first one first and then get this one.

  3. Tami says:

    I’ve never read anything set in this time period – that I can remember – but it sounds like a great story. Thanks for pointing out a new author (new to me). I’ll be checking the library shelves.

  4. Ti says:

    Surprisingly, I enjoy this time period as well.

  5. Oh, I bet I’d like this one too. That time period is infinitely fascinating to me.

  6. Barbara says:

    Count me in. This sounds great.

  7. Staci says:

    Ha! I just finished this one last week and found myself loving it too!! My review will go up next week. Loved, loved, loved your thoughts on this one!!!

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    I love that this one reminded you of your grandfather. That is a great story!

  9. I like that the author’s research and knowledge of the period didn’t get in the way of the story. I love learning historical details, but not at the expense of a good story!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  10. Pingback: #376 ~ Motor City Shakedown

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