cover image Motown


Loren D. Estleman / Author, Loren D. Estelman / Author Bantam

The second installment of Estleman's Detroit trilogy ( Whiskey River ) is terrific: fast, intricate and often funny. Choreographing the movements leading to the August 1966 Detroit riots, Estleman focuses on three main characters: Rick Amery, an ex-cop hired to spy on a Ralph Nader-like consumer advocate; inspector Lew Canada, trying to prevent a war between the Mafia and black gangs, and a likely race riot; and Quincy Springfield, numbers racketeer and ``blind pig'' (after-hours club) operator. But the author does not stint on minor characters, and they, too, leap off the page. A crippled mob boss resolves to oust ``the coloreds'' from the rackets while his exiled father schemes to reclaim the family business; there's also a retired newsman right off The Front Page , plus a Jimmy Hoffa-type labor leader. Set pieces are no less than stunning, notably a publicity stunt to embarrass GM chairman James Roche, and a big black funeral. Period details work wonderfully as well: the clothes, cars, songs, political references, even the price of lamb chops at the A & P are right on the money. (Aug.)