cover image The Detroit Electric Scheme

The Detroit Electric Scheme

D.E. Johnson, Minotaur, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-64456-7

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. (Sept.)