cover image Thunder City

Thunder City

Loren D. Estleman / Author Forge $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-312-

Detroit is most of the setting for Estleman's crime dramas (he is also an acclaimed author of westerns), but the author sees seven of his novels in particular as forming a ""Detroit Series,"" charting the city's history and telling in microcosm the history of the U.S. in the 20th century. This seventh and final installment, a colorful and suspenseful peek into mobster dens and automobile factories and boardrooms, rounds out the writer's chronicle of the Motor City. It is the first decade of the 20th century and Detroit is the bustling center of automobile development and manufacture. Harlan Crownover, son of a wealthy carriage-making tycoon, is swept up in the romance and novelty of the horseless carriage, much to his father's disgust and rage. Harlan, however, is a visionary and, seeing a future for the automobile, joins with Henry Ford to start the Ford Motor Company. Seeking investment money, Harlan first approaches Big Jim Dolan, a slick and powerful Irish politician with competing business interests, who sends Harlan packing. Harlan next strikes a deal with Sal Borneo, a shrewd and murderous Mafia boss who has no interest in automobiles, but who has something else in mind as the payoff for his investment. Invoking political expediency and threatening blackmail, Harlan's father induces Dolan and Borneo to join him in an unlikely conspiracy to ruin Ford and crush Harlan, but they underestimate their unconventional opponents in the legal, media and banking battles that result. Ford and Harlan's triumph over the cabal is exceedingly clever and satisfying, but it is Borneo's sharp forward-thinking vision that is most chilling. Profiting from Estleman's usual careful plotting, accurate backgrounds and crisp narrative, this is a gritty novel of high ideals and low morals, of men trying desperately to outwit one another whatever the cost in the heady days of invention and industry in Detroit. (Nov.)