Once again, the City of Detroit takes center stage in a novel replete with themes of crime, violence, power plays among the powers-that-be, drug lords, and the police, and the everyday struggles of ordinary people (young and old) to survive and thrive.
The year is 1990 and a onetime star pitcher for the Detroit Tigers is released from prison, where he had served 7 years for having a party at a high class downtown hotel, where a young lady was given cocaine and later died from an overdose. "Doc" (Kevin) Rivers, the erstwhile pitcher, goes to stay with his older brother and his family in Dearborn, a city closely adjacent to Detroit. He's a big, imposing man trying to make a new start for himself. Through his brother, Doc has a job working in a John Deere dealership, where he fulfils a utility role, taking on any job given to him. Yet, Doc is a bit restless. So, when a colleague at John Deere who has a side job operating his own cab service offers him the opportunity to earn a little money while he's away on holiday, Doc seizes upon it.
Well, Doc soon finds himself with an interesting character for a client while driving one night around Downtown Detroit. His name: Maynard Ance, a disbarred lawyer in his 60s with a rather dodgy reputation now working as a bail bondsman. The 2 strike up a conversation and Ance offers him a job as his driver and assistant. In other words, his "muscle." Doc is intrigued and before he knows it, he takes Ance to a hotel where Ance sought to apprehend an ex-fugitive (and former '60s revolutionary) and collect on some money due him for his efforts. Unfortunately, Ance won't collect because he and Doc find his quarry dead in bed from a gunshot wound to the head. A suicide.
More thrills and chills follow. Estleman knows how to make a story that is fast-paced, exciting and with a variety of characters whose imprint stays with the reader long after they've had their hour upon the stage.
Here's an example of the banter between Doc and Ance that'll leave the reader wondering: What next?
"You got a bad habit of accusing people of things, then backing off," Doc said. "I told Battle [an officer with the Detroit Police Dept.] I'd keep my eyes and ears open. If I didn't he could screw my parole down so tight I'd be happy to go back to prison. I think I just quit."
"A speech like that is usually made standing up."
Doc stood up.
"Sit down. Everybody knows how tall you are. I believe you."
Doc sat down.
"Better. Trouble with ballplayers is they all think they got to live up to the numbers on the back of their card."
"I never had a card." [Doc]
"Who gives a s--t? Some kid winds up tradng eighteen Doc Millers for one Boog Powell and there you are with a price sticker on your ass."
"Boog Powell? Give me a break."
"I don't see you doing beer commercials. Anyway, f--k that. What counts is what you're worth to me. You're there when I call. I'd dump Taber, but he knows too much about the way I do business. Who was at the party?"
There is never a dull moment in this book. Read it, be entertained, and learn something about the heart and soul of Detroit in the late 20th century.