From Publishers Weekly
Grief and pain dominate Johnson's downbeat debut, set in Detroit in 1910. When Will Anderson, who works for his father's electric car company, finds the body of John Cooper, who's engaged to Elizabeth, Will's former love, crushed by a hydraulic press in the factory's machining room one night, he flees in panic. Will realizes the circumstantial evidence, including blood on his clothes, is against him, and the cops would be happy to beat a confession out of a likely suspect. Will alerts Elizabeth that John has been murdered and she's in danger, but she spurns his offer of help. Beneath the veneer of neat, progressive Detroit, Will discovers corruption and brutality. Meanwhile, Will's own alcoholism doesn't make it easy for him to think through his difficulties. Real-life automotive pioneers like chirpy Edsel Ford and the bullying Dodge brothers provide lively walk-ons, but readers will struggle to empathize with the book's sad-sack hero.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
*Starred Review* From the very beginning of this noir period piece, you just know nothing will turn out all right. Will Anderson’s father owns the electric-car factory where Will finds the body of a one-time friend and rival, John Cooper, crushed and mangled in a hydraulic press. Of course, Will freaks out and scrambles away, leaving clues that point the police right to him. The novel is set in 1910 Detroit, just as competition is heating up in the auto industry and labor unions are beginning to flex their muscle. That’s a tough world to navigate if, like Will, you’re a factory middle manager looking for answers. Will’s ex-girlfriend’s fiancé lies dead; she fears for her life but won’t see Will; none of his friends stick by him; and his father is fit to be tied by the scandal. As Will narrates the sordid details—the sex, the drugs, the hit men, the corruption, the double-crossing—the finger of blame points in all directions. The surprise ending leaves you gasping and shaking your head at Johnson’s masterful plotting and the menacing tension that forces otherwise good characters to behave despicably. Every bit as powerful as Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley series, this gem of a debut showcases an author to watch very closely. --Jen Baker