But allow me to add my two cents to all the other rave reviews. I would argue this fine novel is too nuanced, character-driven, and intricately plotted to classify it as a "thriller" as the cover claims. For me, a thriller is akin to a roller coaster ride that speeds around the track and leaves the rider breathless. But The Damage Done is much more than just a mystery, it is a novel about the scars left by the terrible burden of guilt, putting faith before family, child abuse, and abandonment. The book isn't a roller coast ride but an emotional juggernaut that steadily builds up steam until the final 100 pages when the reader feels like they've stepped on the tracks and into the path of a speeding freight train.
Louis Kincaid served as a Michigan State trooper until he was made a scapegoat by his superior Max Steele and fired. Kincaid found work as a private eye in Florida. Then out of the blue came an invitation to join an elite unit of the Michigan State Police created to investigate cold cases. Heading up the unit is Max Steele. Each officer in the five-member unit must choose one of five cold cases Steele has posted on a board. It soon dawns on Kincaid that all five members of the unit, himself included, have deep emotional wounds and Steele picked cases he knew would dig at the scar tissue until they reopened the wounds and haunted his officers.
When a prominent Grand Rapids TV evangelist is murdered in his church, Steele talks his superiors into letting his unit handle the new and highly visible case. The result is a complex, involving, and ultimately a compulsively readable novel full of surprising plot twists, memorable characters, and a deeply felt examination of the human condition. And long before I reached the last page of this book I added eleven earlier books by Parish to my must-read list.
The Damage Done by PJ Parish. Our Noir Publishing, 2018, $14.99.
Fatal Crossing: The Mysterious Disappearance of NWA Flight 2501 and the Quest for Answers by V. O. van Heest. In-Depth Edith, 2013, $19.95.
The 2.1-square mile town is completely surrounded by Detroit and after reading this book I will always think of Hamtramck as the shot glass full of whiskey that's gently dropped into a large mug of beer to make a Boilermaker depth charge. During its heyday, it is estimated there were bars on practically every street corner and the 45,000 men who worked in Hamtramck's Dodge Main stopped to have a shot and a beer on the way to work and on the way home did the same. On blistering hot summer days, the Dodge Brothers brought kegs of beer into the plant so their workers didn't skip out for one. In the Twenties, the city lost track of its liquor licenses and it was estimated that there were 200 to 400 bars in the town. And yes it was during Prohibition, but it was openly ignored because the city found it broke their budget to even try and enforce it.
The book offers a profusely illustrated, succinct history of the city and how over the decades Hamtramck's bars changed with the times but always remained social gathering places, entertainment venues, served as gambling houses, or also operated as bordellos, and one even gained national recognition as a high-class nightclub. The author does a fine job of showing how the bars were a part of the very social fabric of the city. Hundreds of bars and taverns are mentioned by name and readers will find short histories of some of the better known or more infamous drinkings spot in town. An appendix offers "a by no means comprehensive list of Hamtramck bars going back to the 1960s." This book is likely to appeal to a wider audience than those living in Hamtramck or even greater Detroit. I raise a glass to the author for giving us a unique sidelight on Michigan history - the interesting kind that never finds its way into Michigan history textbooks - Prost.
They Drank for That: Bars, The Beer, and the Beat of Hamtramck by Greg Kowalski. Arcadia Publishing, 2017, $22.99 pb.
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