Motor City Shakedown

( 11 )


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 ...

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Motor City Shakedown:


"...the scenes of the Motor City, riding high on the industrial wave, are extraordinarily vivid..." —The New York Times


"If Dennis Lehane was from Detroit, this is the book he’d write. The Motor City was once the most important city in the world, and D.E. Johnson does a masterful job at making that time and place come alive on the page. Motor City Shakedown is as hard and tough and downright noir as anything I’ve read in recent memory, but it’s got a beating heart, too." – Steve Hamilton, Edgar Award-winning author of The Lock Artist 


"Johnson's vibrant follow-up to The Detroit Electric Scheme delivers razor-sharp depictions of the motor city. Johnson brings the turbulence and rampant corruption of the era to life through his flawed yet tenacious lead in this worthy successor to his debut." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"Johnson’s...clever weaving of history with intriguing characters makes for an exciting read." — Kirkus Reviews


"Violent, suspenseful, and complex, Johnson’s shakedown in Detroit sucks the breath out of readers rushing to the cliff’s edge with Will and Elizabeth. This gritty new series is a good match for James Ellroy and George Pelecanos fans..."—Booklist


"...Johnson's superb historical more engaging, more complex, and more violent than its predecessor."—Gumshoe Review


"This is a superb violent historical noir that brings to life the Motor City one century ago. The meet me in Detroit story line is fast-paced but it is the cast who makes for a terrific action-packed tale especially Will. With tidbits of history interwoven to anchor time and place, readers will enjoy riding the Anderson Electric Car driven by D. E. Johnson."— Midwest Books Reviews


Praise for The Detroit Electric Scheme

“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.”—-Booklist (starred review)

“A empathetic hero and an abundance of interesting historical detail should keep readers engaged.”—-Kirkus Reviews

“Full of nonstop action, plot twists and turns, and great insight into the early history of the United States car industry, this debut is part coming-of-age tale and part historical mystery. Essential for historical fans.”—-Library Journal

“Absorbing.”—-The Seattle Times

“Johnson is so skilled a writer that the race for supremacy between the manufacturers of electric and gasoline-powered automobiles is every bit as exciting as the chase through the streets of Detroit to find a ruthless killer. This remarkable debut novel will give you a thrilling ride, and leave you wanting more.”-—Historical Novels Review (Editor's Choice)

“D. E. Johnson’s terrific debut brilliantly captures the dangerous underbelly of 1910 Detroit’s fast-growing automobile industry. A well-plotted mystery filled with memorable characters and taut suspense, The Detroit Electric Scheme makes for a compelling read.”—-Stefanie Pintoff, Edgar Award—winning author of In the Shadow of Gotham and A Curtain Falls

“Johnson makes a stunning debut, taking us to a time and place so very different from our own—and yet so very much the same.”—-Victoria Thompson, author of Murder on Lexington Avenue

“D. E. Johnson’s impeccable research drives this crackling tale of murder set in Detroit's infant auto industry. . . . The Detroit Electric Scheme jolts you into a dangerous world of suspense and intrigue.”—-Rebecca Cantrell, award-winning author of A Trace of Smoke

Marilyn Stasio
…the scenes of the Motor City, riding high on the industrial wave, are extraordinarily vivid…
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Set in Detroit in 1911, Johnson's vibrant follow-up to The Detroit Electric Scheme delivers razor-sharp depictions of the motor city. Will Anderson, a member of the family that owns the Anderson Electric Car Company (formerly the Anderson Carriage Company), is determined to bring to justice the killers of a close friend, Wesley McRae, who was murdered by thugs seven months earlier. Anderson, who's become a morphine addict after using the narcotic to dull the pain from the loss of some fingers on his right hand, gets a line on Carlo Moretti, the driver for one of the men behind McRae's death, mobster Vito Adamo. But before Anderson can confront Moretti, someone else slits the driver's throat, and Anderson himself becomes the prime suspect for Moretti's murder. Johnson brings the turbulence and rampant corruption of the era to life through his flawed yet tenacious lead in this worthy successor to his debut. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews

The Latin proverb "Revenge is a confession of pain" perfectly describes Will Anderson's situation.

In 1911 Detroit, Will Anderson lives for revenge. His involvement in the death of his friend Wesley McRae (The Detroit Electric Scheme, 2010) and his own disfigurement at the hands of mobsters has led him to follow the driver of crime boss Vito Adamo. When he finds the man with his throat cut, he knows he will be a suspect and realizes he must find the killer. It's no easy job in a dangerous world populated by rival gangs willing to do anything to come out on top. Arrested for murder, Will spends months in jail before a confession from another man sets him free. But all is not well; he's become addicted to morphine, and his family is imperiled. His father must either produce a large sum of money or let a union into his electric car company. His back against the wall, Will puts his hope in his ex-fiancée, Elizabeth Hume, recently returned from Europe; Detective Riordan, one of the few honest cops in Detroit; and the Purple Gang, a bunch of young boys he's enlisted to help him survive the mob war raging around him. Under these circumstances, he finds that Vito Adamo may be more friend than enemy.

Johnson's period noir is violent and chaotic, but his clever weaving of history with intriguing characters makes for an exciting read.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312644574
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/13/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 451,903
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

D. E. Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, is a history buff who has been writing fiction since childhood. He comes by his interest in automotive history through his grandfather, who was the vice president of Checker Motors. Johnson lives with his family near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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Read an Excerpt



Sunday, August 6, 1911

My left index finger traced the shape of the little morphine bottle through the outside of my trouser pocket. Nearly two hours had passed since my last dose. Even though the pain in my right hand was tolerable and my mind was still enveloped in the delicious fuzziness of the opiate, I’d been fighting with myself for the last fifteen minutes—one more taste before Moretti showed? I might not get another chance for a while. But I couldn’t take too much. I had to be sharp.

Movement on the sidewalk down the block caught my attention, and my hand went to the .32 tucked into my belt. I pressed farther back into the shadows of the alley, squinting at the couple who had just turned the corner. The few streetlamps that worked were dim and widely spaced, doing little to add to the meager glow spilling from the windows of the crumbling redbrick buildings.

They strolled underneath the cone of light from a streetlamp. Both were men, one of average height, the other six inches shorter, perhaps a little over five feet tall—about Moretti’s height. I studied them. Both wore white shirts, dark trousers with suspenders, and black derbies, but no—Moretti was stocky, built like a fireplug. The smaller man was wiry and moved more gracefully than Vito Adamo’s muscular driver. I relaxed as they walked into Moretti’s building.

I couldn’t get worked up over every man who passed by. This was a busy area—a run-down, though typical, slice of Detroit’s Little Italy. I was plenty familiar with the scenery here, after investigating Vito Adamo’s Black Hand gang for the last few months. Even though Adamo hadn’t been directly responsible for the death of my friend, Wesley McRae, he had helped. That was enough. I pulled out my watch and angled it toward a streetlamp—twelve thirty. Moretti should be here.

Every night I’d watched, he had gotten home between 12:15 and 12:30, always with a different woman—prostitutes, I assumed. The women left within thirty minutes, and Moretti exited the building at 1:45 sharp to go back to Adamo’s saloon, the Bucket. This was the third straight night I had planned to jump him. On both previous occasions I’d chickened out. But not tonight. Tonight Carlo Moretti and I would talk.

I pulled off my derby and the handkerchief I’d tied around my head and I wiped the sweat from my face. Past midnight and still somewhere near ninety degrees. For the tenth time tonight, I slipped the handkerchief back over my head and spun it around to cover my face below my eyes—to be sure it would stay in place. If Moretti recognized me, I’d have to kill him. I didn’t want to do that. After shifting the mask around to the back again, I returned my derby to my head and settled in to wait. I needed a cigarette but restrained myself—it would give away my position.

Another couple turned the corner and ambled up the street. It was him. Carlo Moretti sauntered down the sidewalk with a slender woman on his arm. He wore a dark suit and a straw boater, she a green satin evening dress with a matching wide-brimmed hat. Moretti stood half a head shorter than she, but I wouldn’t let his diminutive stature fool me. He was one of Vito Adamo’s most accomplished killers.

They entered his building, and I glanced at my watch: 12:40. She’d be here until 1:10. I wanted to burst in the room while they were in flagrante delicto, while Moretti’s hands were occupied. But I didn’t want any witnesses. I’d been waiting a long time. A few more minutes wouldn’t matter.

My right hand throbbed, and I brought it up near my face. In the darkness of the alley, my black glove was nearly invisible, but I could see the silhouettes of my fingers contracted over my palm. I tried straightening them. They moved perhaps an inch, and a searing wave burned its way up my arm.

I grimaced and pulled the little bottle of morphine from my pocket. A taste—just a taste—would be enough to keep me from thinking too much about the pain. Trapping the bottle against my chest with my right arm, I twisted off the cap with my left, raised the bottle to my mouth, and tipped it back for a second, just long enough to taste the bitter brown fluid. The numbing warmth began to trickle down my throat. This was the time to which I so looked forward. I took a deep breath, and another, and then leaned against the wall to enjoy the peace that was beginning to cradle my mind.

The front door of the building opened, and the prostitute burst out, hat in hand. She hurried away, shoes clacking against the sidewalk, her stride somewhere between a walk and a run. When she passed under the streetlamp, she glanced behind her, as if to see if someone followed. I saw hints of red in her dark hair.

Odd. She’d been inside for perhaps ten minutes. But Moretti was a son of a bitch. Who knew what he did to these women?

I pulled the Colt pistol from my belt and checked the load—seven bullets I hoped I wouldn’t need tonight. I cocked it, flicked on the safety, and stuffed it back into my belt. At one thirty I crossed the street and entered the dark stairwell. The mews of kittens came from a crate in the corner. Trickles of light filtered in from the hallway, illuminating the steps to vague dark shapes. The stair rail was sticky, the air wet, smelling of mold and sewage. Muffled voices rose and fell as I crept up to the second-floor landing. I leaned out over the rail and looked above me. No one stood guard. Moretti didn’t rate his boss’s protection.

Something touched my ankle. I jerked the gun from my belt before I saw it was only a cat. Breathing a sigh of relief, I shooed it away and continued up the stairs. When I reached the top, I peered out at the hallway, lit to dusk by sputtering gas lamps. A dozen doors stood at fifteen-foot intervals, all but the third one on the right blanketed with Italian graffiti, as were the walls between. I kept my eye on the clean door. In roughly ten minutes that door would open, and a well-armed Moretti would head for the stairs, on his way back to the Bucket.

But tonight he wasn’t going to make it to the Bucket.

From below, a man and woman started up the stairs, their slurred words and drunken laughter filtering up the stairwell ahead of them. Though they didn’t sound like they’d be a threat, I had nowhere to hide, and certainly no explanation for lurking on the steps. Hoping they’d stop on the second floor, I sprawled out on the stairs and feigned sleep. In this building, drunks sleeping one off in the stairwell couldn’t be that unusual.

They continued up from the second floor, pausing when they stepped onto the landing below me. After only a brief hesitation, they climbed the stairs, laughing still, more intent on their own plans than on me. They skirted me and turned down the hallway, a door opened and closed, and their voices blended into the quiet murmur of the building’s other residents.

I spun the handkerchief around so it covered my face and stood, flattened against the wall, looking around the corner at Moretti’s door. The building creaked and groaned around me. Any minute now.

I waited. The door didn’t open. I pulled my watch from my waistcoat. Six minutes of two. He was already nine minutes late. I put my watch away. Footsteps clattered up the stairwell from the first floor.

Where was he? Had he left and I’d somehow missed him? Perhaps he’d gone out the back door tonight. Perhaps he’d spotted me. The footsteps headed off down the second-floor hallway, and it was quiet again.

I couldn’t wait all night. I had to do something before I lost my nerve. Pulling my .32, I crept down the hall to Moretti’s door. Light leaked out through the crack underneath. I put my ear against the flaking paint on the door and listened. The apartment was silent. I slipped the gun into my belt and tried the knob. It turned. I pushed against the door, just the slightest pressure. It began to open. Once the latch cleared the doorjamb, I pulled out the pistol again and used my worthless right hand to open the door. It swung inward, creaking, and I tensed, preparing for Moretti’s attack.

But the apartment was still—no sound, no movement other than the curtains of the only window riffling in the hot wind. I stepped inside and pushed the door shut behind me, eyes scanning the room. The apartment was about fifteen feet square with little more than the bare essentials—a box stove, two chairs and a rickety table with a straw boater atop it, a bureau holding a dozen liquor bottles, and a single bed near the wall on the right, covered by a threadbare blue blanket.

I tiptoed to the window and slipped my head outside. A fire escape snaked up the building only a foot away. I cursed. He must have seen me and left through the window.

I turned to leave and saw a spray of red on the dingy ivory wall at the side of the bed. I took a step toward it, and another. Near the wall, the blanket was spattered with dark stains. Now I saw a form—a naked man lying facedown, jammed between the bed and the wall. I pulled the handkerchief down around my neck and leaned in.

It looked like Moretti. I reached over the bed, took hold of his pomaded hair, and pulled up. His body didn’t move, but his head fell back in my hand. His throat was a yawning wound, puckered tubes and bloody tissue. I stared in horror. Moretti’s dark eyes were half open, dull. His tongue looked out of place, a sea slug—blue, slimy, hanging out of his gaping mouth. The floor beneath him was covered by a dark pool. I let go of the greasy hair, and his head dropped like a lead weight, thumping against the floor.

My gut churned. Trying not to vomit, I took a step back. The bitter taste of the morphine syrup gave me my first realization I’d even taken the bottle from my pocket.

I had to get out of here. Now. But not like before. Not like an idiot. I needed to be sure I left no clues.

I thought I had touched the window frame, so I used my glove to wipe it down, and did the same with the doorknob on the inside. After a quick look around, I peeked out into the hall. No one was in sight. I slipped out and ran my gloved hand over the knob on the outside. The morphine was keeping the burn to a tolerable level.

A door creaked. A young woman in a faded blue nightgown, her dark curls bound up in a white kerchief, leaned out the next door, a saucer of milk in her hand. Our eyes met before I was able to turn away, waiting for her door to close again. The only exit was the stairway, and I had to pass her to get there.

She asked me something in Italian. Her voice was soft.

I shrugged and said, “No,” trying to disguise my voice.

She said something else.

Son of a bitch. Still keeping my face angled away from her, I shook my head.

She asked me something again, her voice more insistent now.

She hadn’t seen my face for long. Hoping she hadn’t seen it well, I pulled the handkerchief up over my face and bolted past her, down the hall to the stairway.

*   *   *

A few hours later, I lay awake in a small stand of maple trees along the edge of one of Belle Isle’s grassy fields, smoking a cigarette and staring up at the stars through silhouettes of leaves. I’d found myself wandering in this direction when I stopped running, but I wasn’t sure why. The cooler air off the river provided some relief from the heat, but I thought it more likely I had come here because it was a comforting place for me, filled with warm memories of time spent with Elizabeth. We’d stood on the bridge for hours talking about our future, had walked the paths, boated in the pond, watched the buffalo graze peacefully in their pasture. Nothing bad had happened to me here, something that was getting difficult to say about most parts of Detroit.

Thousands of sleeping people dotted the small island, driven out of their homes in the city by the relentless heat. With my sleeve I wiped a warm film of sweat from my face. Four in the morning in the middle of the river, and I was still sweating. A streetcar rattled past over on Jefferson Avenue. The rhythmic drone of cicadas pulsed around me, rising and falling. A chorus of frogs sang across the island—delicate chirrups and clicks from tree frogs, the rumbling croaks and snores of their larger cousins. But they didn’t lull me to sleep as they might have done on a normal night, even though I had finished off the last of the morphine.

Could the prostitute have killed Moretti? The wound was so deep, the cut so sure, it was hard to imagine his death being at the hand of a woman. I struggled to recall her appearance. Tall—or at least in comparison to Moretti—slender, a reddish tint to her hair. My impression of her clothing, green satin dress and matching hat, was of expensive fabric and a fashionable cut. She didn’t necessarily have to be the killer. She could have merely let him in from the fire escape or distracted Moretti while the killer entered the apartment.

If the police came after me, I was sunk. I would have to find the prostitute, get the truth out of her before they caught up to me. The one thing I didn’t doubt is that they would come after me—if not now, then soon. The police knew I hated Vito Adamo. The woman in the apartment next to Moretti’s had seen my face. The hallway was dim, and she saw me only for a second, but we had locked eyes. Though it had been at least six months since I was last featured in the local papers, my face was one familiar to many Detroiters. Still, at the rate new immigrants were arriving, it was anyone’s guess whether she recognized me. That she lived in Moretti’s building was in my favor. She had probably been brought into the country illegally by Vito Adamo, and would therefore be unlikely to involve herself in a police matter.

It also occurred to me that my appearance had changed drastically since my picture was in the papers. I’d lost twenty pounds from my already-thin five-foot-ten-inch frame, and my face was drawn, with hollow cheeks and sunken eyes. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gotten a haircut. I kept my shaggy brown mop at bay with a handful of pomade every morning, but my hair hung over my ears and down my collar. Perhaps if I got it cut, it might help keep the woman from identifying me.

As I thought, I massaged my dead right hand with my left, an unconscious habit I’d picked up shortly after I left the hospital. I wasn’t sure if it was just a nervous tic or if, somewhere deep down, I thought if I massaged it enough, the pain would stop. I watched the fingers spread apart and then close halfway into a fist. A new wave of pain shot like lightning up my arm.

Shit. I shook my head. I’d planned it all out. I would surprise Moretti and get him back in his apartment. He would tell me where I could find Vito Adamo, Big Boy, and Sapphira Xanakis—the people who helped John Cooper murder Wesley McRae. They had all disappeared without a trace. I would hunt them down and kill them, or at least bring them to justice.

Seven months had passed since Wesley was murdered, and I’d gotten nowhere. Seven months of stumbling around, trying to put my life back together—all the while trying to find Vito Adamo and his accomplices. And now my only lead had been murdered, and I was certain to be a suspect.

I looked up at the sky and mouthed, I’m sorry, Wes. He was the best friend I could have ever had, repeatedly risking his life and finally giving it—for me, a man who had disdained him for his homosexuality. I shook my head. I never deserved a friend like Wes, and now I despaired that I would ever be able to pay back even a fraction of what he had given me.

The stars were beginning to fade, the black sky graying as dawn approached. I needed to be home before sunrise. I stood, brushed myself off, and headed back across the bridge to the city. Half an hour later I crept up the fire escape at the back of my apartment building in my stockings, just as I had exited the previous evening. I’d had my new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Preston, over for dinner. When they were leaving, I’d made a big show of going to bed early. I had thought I was being clever to set up an alibi I’d never need.

Now I hoped it held.


Copyright © 2011 by D. E. Johnson

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An Intriguing Story that has Drama, Mystery, History and Romance

    I'm not a murder mystery fan but I read Motor City Shakedown in an eight hour session because it was that intriguing. I admit my initial interest was due to the location-metro Detroit, my home for five years. Even though I lived there until 2008 and the story takes place in 1911, the streets the protagonist raced through or hid in were familiar names. So was the violence and corruption, although somewhat subdued from my vantage point in my Corktown neighborhood. I love Detroit but I've wondered why it grows youth who turn to crime, often of the violent kind, not just for the money. Many do it to earn the respect of their peers and enemies. I have listened to young Detroiters tell stories of high schools where shooting was their response to being dissed (disrespected), their attendance required in places more like war zones than preparation for responsible adulthood. Johnson writes of the Purple Gang, boys who would have been grandfathers to the boys I met. To the teenaged Purple Gang, murder was no more serious than any other work assignment and would be carried out for whoever was willing to pay. Even though this is a novel, Johnson has done sufficient research to become knowledgeable about Detroit gangsters and the example they must have been to their grandchildren. The book may be a revelation of why too many Detroit youth turn to crime. But this is not a morality story; it is the realistic narrative of the historical Motor City with its immense potential. Johnson gives us a glimpse of life in the time of Henry Ford (with a flattering portrait of his son, Edsel). In the early 20th century when automobiles were not yet in every garage and electric cars were as accepted as early Fords, in a time before unions had come into full power, money could buy products and people, even local police. In that era, the main character, Will Anderson, doesn't rely on police to protect him or expect justice to prevail. He creates his own security and executes his own brand of justice. Help is offered, but Will must choose who is on his side and who is using him. And he is not always right. Will is right about his former fiancé, Elizabeth. Their restored relationship provides a romantic twist for those of us who appreciate a kiss now and then as a reprieve from shootouts and other acts of violence. Elizabeth is not only his partner in dealing with the bad guys, but also his salvation from addiction to morphine. He uses it for the constant pain from a hand destroyed by an act of heroism. But that's an earlier story. Read both. In Motor City Shakedown, Johnson tells a story for just about everyone, with its drama, history, mystery, and romance. It even has a trace of social consciousness, such as coverage of what Will thinks of a lecture on Taylorism or of eating at an automat, a food factory. The mystery of which group "did it" is finally solved, but the issue of Will and Elizabeth's survival in such a dangerous world remains uncertain. I look forward to some assurances in a sequel.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Solid, gripping prose!

    Ha! I got an advance copy and tore through it in no time!

    Motor City Shakedown provides two things: a detailed snapshot of the beginnings of the American empire, and a rough-neck noir tale complete with the Purple Gang in teenage form, wearing short pants and peddling papers(among other things).

    This is a guaranteed page-turner!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This is a superb violent historical noir

    In 1911 Detroit, it is Will Anderson's family that owns the Anderson Electric Car Company. However, his mind is not on vehicles. Instead he seeks revenge. Seven months ago thugs enabled John Cooper to murder his friend Wesley McRae and turned Will into a morphine addict. He lost or had disfigured several fingers due to sulfuric acid before he and his beloved former fiancée Elizabeth Hume escaped the gangsters (see The Detroit Electric Scheme), but the pain and disuse of his right hand remains constant .

    His first break leads to gang boss Vito Adamo's driver Carlo Moretti. However, when Will goes to confront Moretti he is greeted by a dead man whose throat has been cut. The Detroit police believe Anderson killed Moretti in an act of revenge. He sits in jail for several months before being freed when someone else confesses to the homicide. The family company teeters near bankruptcy or unionization. Meanwhile, Will is in the crosshairs of gang warfare with enemies maybe being his allies and friends like Elizabeth back from Europe, Police Detective Riordan, and the Purple Gang on his side.

    This is a superb violent historical noir that brings to life the Motor City one century ago. The meet me in Detroit story line is fast-paced but it is the cast who makes for a terrific action-packed tale especially Will. With tidbits of history interwoven to anchor time and place, readers will enjoy riding the Anderson Electric Car driven by D. E. Johnson.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2011

    Highly Recommended-Great Mystery and Suspense

    Sometimes setting becomes a character in the story and this is certainly the case for Johnson's 1911 Detroit. Main character Will Anderson is both wiser and stronger in this sequel, qualities he needs when forced into the middle of a street war between rival Italian power houses, the Gianollas and Adamos. Anderson ultimately wants both dead for crimes committed against his family and friends and will have to work with the darker side of Detroit to survive. Anderson's survival is complicated by other players; the Unions want access to Detroit Electric, the police and Employer's Association are being paid from too many crooks to count, and other ethnic groups would love to fill the power void created by weakened Italian gangs.

    This story if easy to read, fast paced, and will leave you eagerly anticipating the third installment of this fantastic mystery series. I loved the Detroit Electric Scheme and feel just as strongly about Motor City Shakedown. Highly Recommended.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2014

    Great story

    Love reading all the Detroit Electric series.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    Even better than The Detroit Electric Scheme!!!

    During the 1980s and '90s, when calling on the Big Three automakers, I was only vaguely aware of the Motor City's robust dynamism of the early 1900s. Still at the top of their global game, they had long before shifted away from their intertwined roots in the city of Detroit, a shrinking shadow of its former glory.

    Motor City Shakedown, the author's gritty, bumpy ride back through the decades to a complex, vibrant, younger Detroit whose grandeur gleams arrogantly while her underbelly slides through the human conditions of gangster and class warfare, systemic poverty, vigilantism, greed, under-regulated drugs and guns, and corruption. The gripping story of flawed hero Will Anderson, begun in The Detroit Electric Scheme, continues in ever greater realism, moral ambiguity, complexity, period richness, and compelling, dark mystery. I enthusiastically recommend first the reading of The Detroit Electric Scheme, and then Motor City Shakedown.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    Gritty, engaging historical Mystery!!

    I am officially hooked on the adventures (or mis-adventures) of Johnson's main character Will Anderson. This suspenseful, fast paced, gritty follow up to The Detroit Electric Scheme is a wonderful and engaging read. Much like Johnson's debut, this one was nearly impossible for me to put down!

    Being a Metro-Detroiter I appreciate the fact that Johnson did his research as the details seem to be quite accurate. The details and descriptions of the landmarks and characters paint a very vivid picture of the seedy side of Detroit around the turn of the century.

    Johnson's clever use of historical Automotive figureheads (Dodge Brothers, Edsel and Henry Ford, etc...) as characters in Motor City Shakedown just add to the authenticity of this book. As both a Detroiter and someone who works in the Auto Industry this series of books are wonderful reads, and I think Johnson has a bright future!

    I turned my wife on to The Detroit Electric Scheme, and Motor City Shakedown, and she also can't wait for the next book!

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  • Posted October 17, 2011

    Another great novel from a notable author

    This action-packed book, like The Detroit Electric Scheme, is difficult to put down. Johnson is an amazing storyteller and pays off his first book with this gripping follow-up. Even after finishing the book, the characters, scenes, and vivid descriptions have stayed in my mind. As someone who doesn't normally read historical novels or murder mysteries, I can vouch that this is a book everyone should enjoy, and it's certainly one I want to share. From suspense and tragedy to a redeemed romance, it has something for everyone.

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Gangsters & Glory! Detroit 1900's Gripping

    I often choose books to read because of my preferences for literature, contemporary fiction, YA fiction/dystopian/paranormal, and women's literature. I also love a good murder mystery...not of the cottage sort. Once in a while I'm delighted and surprised with an opportunity to select a book that hits on my love of the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's. "Motor City Shakedown" came across my path and I immediately snapped it up! I practically begged for a chance to review it. Here were my reasons: It takes place at the start of the 1900's, it's about a city I know very little about, it's a murder mystery, and it has gangsters involved. Just my black little heart's cup of tea! I'm here to report to you that this novel is much more than I was expecting. It's classy and erudite. The characters are sophisticated and sexy. I'm talking about a dance with film noir when I talk about the characters and the story. D. E. Johnson's pace, his development of the mystery; and, the personal motivations and addictions of the charming "bad boy" savior, Will Anderson, kept this reader clambering for more. There is, naturally, a female character, as well. Elizabeth Hume. She's beautiful, but so easy to like not only because of her faithfulness and support of Will, but also because she's modern and of a feminist mind. Johnson is my hero in this. He has Elizabeth choosing to lend her efforts to the "Michigan Equal Suffrage Assn.," and McGregar Mission, even when he didn't have to! And, it's Elizabeth-the-brave who plays a large role in bringing everything to a satisfying end. She's a strong woman, but doesn't have to give up her femininity. I'm loving Johnson for this! I have the first book in his Detroit-based series, which I'm anxious to read, called "The Detroit Electric Scheme." It's going on the top of my book stack for this winter. My prediction is that Johnson's books are going to take off like Deaver's did. They would make fantastic movies. Andy Garcia could play the part as the papa Ganster, Vito Adamo (just because I adore him). I can see Johnny Depp as Will, and Jennifer Garner as Elizabeth. Please find "Motor City Shakedown" and read it. You'll enjoy it so much, as will your family. D. E. Johnson writes every bit as well as Michael Connolly...only I think I like his work better. Find out what I mean! 5 electrical, not gaslight stars

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  • Posted October 10, 2011

    Fast Paced, Interesting Place and Characters.

    I've read my share of thriller and detective novels and most of them are set in LA, New Orleans, Chicago, Boston, or New York or international cities famous for spies such as London, Paris, Moscow, the Middle East or DC. Booming early 20th century Detroit is the setting for D. E. Johnson's followup to The Detroit Electric Scheme. Will Anderson has traded his alcohol problem for morphine and his depression for a desire to revenge the death of his best friend. Throw in early gang warfare and the rise of the unions in Detroit and you've got a crackerjack novel. Johnson has picked up the pace in his second book and this one is even harder to put down than his first. And when it was over I already wondering how Will Anderson would be dealing with the debts he incurs during Motor City Shakedown in the third novel and also what roles some of the other, interesting characters will play. I liked Anderson's growth in this novel. He's still not always the most likeable of protagonist but his increasing street smarts, his guts and the realization that he has people who care about him that he needs to trust more are making me root for him more strongly than ever. I'm looking forward to the next installment where I hope I see Will Anderson becoming a better, stronger human being. I also look forward to learning more about the history of the city that has played such an important role in America in the 20th century but is so seldom the setting for novels I encounter.

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  • Posted August 21, 2011

    Thrilling from start to finish!

    Motor City Shakedown, the sequel to The Detroit Electric Scheme, hits the ground running. Determined to avenge the death of a good friend, Will Anderson and his former fiancee, Elizabeth, team up and throw themselves into the dark underbelly of Detroit. Dealing with shady characters at every turn, they eventually find themselves in the thick of Detroit's first mob war. Historical characters such as the Adamos, the Gianollas, and the Berstein boys are reincarnated through Johnson's brilliant descriptions. The way Johnson weaves historical information into the plot gives you a better understanding of the time without feeling like you are being taught. And with Johnson's surprise ending, you will not be able to keep your jaw from dropping. This is a must read. The only thing you will be disappointed about is that the third book of the series is not on the shelf yet!

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