Motor City Shakedown by D.E. Johnson

Note: Details of the first book in this series, The Detroit Electric Scheme, are discussed in both Motor City Shakedown and, to an extent, this review of it.

D.E. JohnsonI had my life back. This time I wouldn’t waste it. – Will Anderson

Detroit, 1911. When we last saw Will Anderson, heir apparent to the Detroit Electric car company, he and his then fiancée, Elizabeth Hume, had barely survived a nasty encounter with crime boss Vito Adamo.

Will’s best friend did not survive, and the guilt Will feels over his friend’s murder, as well as the terrible pain he suffers as a result of his mangled right hand, have driven Will to morphine addiction to dull his demons.

Determined to set things right and avenge his friend, Will begins with Adamo’s driver, intending to work his way up the criminal ladder to the boss. Unfortunately for Will someone beats him to the punch, and it’s a nearly decapitated body he finds upon entering the driver’s apartment.

Now Will’s a suspect in a murder he didn’t commit, and his quest to find the real killer starts him down a path that ends smack dab in the middle of an all-out mob war.

Will unexpectedly gets helped out of his police jam by the Gianolla crime family, who promptly turn around and use that leverage to squeeze Will into being their point man for the Teamsters’ entry into Detroit Electric. With the lives of Elizabeth and his family at stake, Will finds that hard times make for strange bedfellows as he begins to wonder if the enemy of his enemy – Vito Adamo – may actually be, well, if not his friend then at least a potential ally.

Add to the mix corrupt cops, a disturbingly ruthless gang of opportunistic teenagers, and some wonderfully vivid imagery of a bustling Detroit on the verge of the automotive boom and you have a rip-roaring adventure.

I am not normally a big reader of historical fiction, but the setup for author Dan Johnson’s Will Anderson series sounded too intriguing to pass up. I’m glad I didn’t, because Johnson has brought turn of the 20th century Detroit alive in spectacular fashion. His depiction exquisitely captures both the excitement and uncertainty that surrounded the city’s headlong sprint into the era of motor cars and labor unions, as well as the underlying crime and civic corruption that the city would unfortunately come to be known for as much as their automobiles.

Elegantly blending fiction with fact – the Adamo and Gianolla crime families and their war were quite real – Dan Johnson has crafted a truly memorable and highly atmospheric crime novel.

Motor City Shakedown is available from St. Martin’s / Minotaur Books (ISBN: 978-0312644574). While you don’t have to have read the first book in the series, The Detroit Electric Scheme, in order to enjoy Motor City Shakedown, I do believe having done so will enhance your enjoyment of it. So check them both out! Also be sure to check out author Dan Johnson’s guest post in which he discusses “Detroit Crime – Old Style.”

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. Dan is married, has three daughters, and lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan. To learn more about Dan, visit his website.

Be sure to check out all of D.E. Johnson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS


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  • Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours

    November 10, 2011 - 6:13 PM

    I’m so glad you took a chance on this one – it sounds like it turned out to be a great read for you!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  • Sabrina Ogden

    November 9, 2011 - 12:14 PM

    Great review, Elizabeth. I’ve never been much for historical fiction, myself. I’m willing to give it a try. Between the guest post yesterday and this review, I’m pretty interested in these books.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      November 9, 2011 - 6:51 PM

      As I said I’m not usually either, but this one is so good it’s like you’re there in 1911 Detroit… and there is plenty of action and a decent body count too. 😉