May 1, 2020 # 54

Friday, May 1, 2020
Quote for the day: "... Ann Arbor was at the extreme end of the habitable world, beyond which the sun went down on a boundless, bottomless morass, where the frightful sound of yelling indians, howling wolves, croaking frogs, rattling massaugers, and buzzing mosquitoes added to the awful horror of the dismal place." Henry Little recalling the settling of Michigan in the 1830s. Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collection. Vol III, 1881.


This Won't End Well
Camille Pagan

Annie Mercer has had enough. She lost her job as a chemist because her boss got away with sexual harassment and she is now cleaning houses in Ann Arbor to make money. Her best friend's advice is to let crystals help her deal with life and her fiance has asked for space and understanding when he abruptly leaves for Paris and asks her not to try and reach him while he's gone. In response, Annie decides to retreat from life and from people. She swears off meeting new people and making new friends and decides to create some much-needed space to re-examine her life.

Camille Pagan is a writer who seems to effortlessly create believable and sympathetic characters facing difficult personal problems. When the reader becomes immersed in the story it almost feels like the author has stepped back from the narrative and lets the character find her own way out of the conundrum. The characters become as real as your next-door neighbors and there is not a missed-step or false note as the narrative plays out.

Annie's vow to make no new friends or even meet new people is almost immediately put to the test when a gorgeous young woman moves in next door who may have some serious personal problems concerning her safety. Then an off-beat amateur detective worms his way into Annie's life while trying to keep track of the neighbor. Almost against her will Annie becomes involved with both her next-door neighbor's problems and Mo the private detective. 

The author uses emails, texting, and Annie's diary within the story and the different narratives fit together as perfectly as jigsaw puzzle pieces. The book is very amusing and even laugh out loud funny. And if you're the type of reader who highlights or underlines phrases and sentences that are especially noteworthy you'll need a couple of highlighter pens. Two of my favorites are "...Leesa can talk a blind man into seeing things her way..." and "We ask for equal pay and a seat at the table, and instead we're handed control-top pantyhose and pink wine with cupcakes on the label."

"This Won't End Well" is a thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read that does, in fact, end well.
This Won't End Well by Camille Pagan. Lake Union Publishing, 2020, $24.95.

The Elusive Purple Gang: Detroit's Kosher Nostra
by Gregory A. Fournier

At the height of their power, Detroit's Purple Gang was among the most successful and richest criminal organizations in the country. This concise account of the gang's rise from a gang of  Jewish delinquents involved in petty crimes to Detroit's most powerful criminal organization whose influence and corruption reached into city hall, the police department, and Wayne County justice system makes for fascinating reading.

By the time the delinquents grew into adults and prohibition corrupted an entire country the Purple Gang controlled all the rackets in Detroit. They began by hijacking booze shipments being smuggled across the river from Canada by independent operators and they eventually controlled all smuggling of booze into Detroit. By 1929 bootlegging was the second most important industry in the city with only automobile production making more money. The gang ran the numbers racket and all the betting shops where gamblers placed bets on horse races from all around the country. They kidnapped and held for ransom men who ran speakeasies and gambling halls, and other illegal businesses because the gang knew these men wouldn't go to the police.

The Purple Gang were notoriously violent and never hesitated to murder anyone who tried to cut into their territory or even operate without their consent or a share of the profits. The Detroit Police Department estimated, without proof to support their claim, the gang was responsible for 500 solved and unsolved murders between 1925 and 1929. Even if that estimate was grossly over-inflated and the gang was responsible for only half that number of killings it would be an outrageous tally of assassinations. 

This is a compulsively readable tale of the most notorious and violent gang of criminals ever to  
operate in Michigan.
The Elusive Purple Gang: Detroit's Kosher Nostra by Gregory A. Fournier. Wheatmark, 2020, $18.95 pb.

Gathering Moss: A Douglas Lake Mystery
by Eric M. Howe

This is the author's second book in the series of mysteries set in the Douglas Lake Biological Station. For those new to the series, the station was founded in 1909 and is operated by the University of Michigan. It is a research and teaching facility in which professors and grad students conduct biological research and classes are offered in spring and summer terms.  The author has spent many summers at the station, or The Bug Camp, as it is often called by the staff and students. 

Once again, professor, Rick Parsons is called upon by the local police to help solve what appears to be a murder. Skeletal remains have been found on the station's grounds. They don't know how old the remains are but the buckshot found with the skeleton indicates the bones may be all that's left of a murder victim.  The police ask Rick Parsons, who specializes in the study of the less than romantic forms of vegetation like algae and moss, to perform a forensic examination of the remains and determine how long they have been in the ground and if the body had been moved from the murder site.

In pace, location, characters, and the method in which the murder is solved are all distinctly different from most mystery novels. The pace is leisurely and the detective work is played out against wonderful descriptions of the area's natural setting, bits of history along with glimpses into the ongoing scientific work at the Bug Camp. The book also does a fine job of describing the general area around Douglas Lake including mention of two of my favorite area restaurants the Brutus Camp Deli and the well out of the way Moosejaw Junction.

An entirely enjoyable mystery that unwinds at its own pace. I believe a third book in the series is due out sometime this year.
Gathering Moss: A Douglas Lake Mystery by Eric M. Howe. Independently published, 2019, $6.99.   

Any of the books reviewed in this blog may be purchased by clicking your mouse on the book's cover which will take you to Amazon where you can usually purchase the book at a discount. By using this blog as a portal to Amazon and purchasing any product helps support Michigan in Books.

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.