Reviewer Janet Walker: Janet is the author of Colour To Die For, first of the Fee Weston Mystery Series. Janet lives in Australia and when she is not writing about P.I. Fee Weston's fight for truth, justice and a livable cash flow, she writes articles for magazines and fund raises for Australia's wildlife carers - heroes of the bush. For more about Janet and Fee visit Janet's WEBSITE
Author: D.E. Johnson
ISBN: e-book: 978-1-250-01212-8
Detroit, 1912; horse drawn
carriages are being replaced by electric or petrol driven vehicles
and women’s suffrage can't come fast enough. A golden period before
the ghastliness of the Great War put an end to the hopes and dreams
of a generation of young men, it’s the year chosen by D.E. Johnson
as a backdrop to his latest mystery, Detroit Breakdown.
A history buff, D.E. Johnson’s family background in the automotive industry is put to good use in this rattling good yarn about mayhem and murder in a real life Detroit asylum. Eloise Insane Asylum was founded in 1839 and operated continuously until 1984. The name, Eloise Hospital or Sanatorium, not adopted until 1911, it had two main buildings, one was used to treat the mentally ill and the other for the treatment and housing of patients suffering from tuberculosis. Not, you would think, an ideal combination but one which no doubt suited the finances of the County, as after entering either facility, patients (mostly poor or abandoned) were not expected to last long; the old saying: Kill two birds with one stone seems appropriate.
The story begins as
Elizabeth Hume, a good gal to know if you’re in a tight corner, and
Will Anderson, her likeable but somewhat rash ex-fiancé,
field a call from Eloise Asylum – a patient has died and
Elizabeth’s cousin, Robert will more than likely be charged with
murder. Robert’s incarceration at Eloise, a family secret, he has
not had a visit from his family for ten years. Will and Elizabeth
jump in her Baker Electric car and motor post haste to the asylum.
Distraught at Robert’s wafer thin, terrified appearance, Elizabeth,
unwilling to believe he is capable of murder, determines to find out
who the murderer is and in so doing, set Robert free from what can
only be described as a hell-hole.
Will, anxious to help, is sure Elizabeth is not telling him the whole truth about her relationship with Robert. She’s not – Robert is her older brother and Elizabeth is afraid that she may also be touched by the Hume family madness. Will suggests they request help from Detective Riordan, an officer of the law, who has helped them on previous occasions. The three meet and brainstorm ways to extricate Robert from the threat of a murder charge. Will, eager to do anything that will reinstate his engagement with Elizabeth, comes up with the idea of having himself committed to the asylum to investigate and find the real killer. This seemed like a pretty dopey idea to me as the Eloise medical staff and on-site police force were noticeably weird, but hey, the things a guy will do for love.
Elizabeth decides to
volunteer at Eloise to snoop around and also help Will if
trouble strikes. Meanwhile, admitted as John Doe, an amnesia
sufferer, Will finds trouble wherever he goes – rancid food,
crackpot medical treatments and sadistic police are just a few of the
difficulties he faces. He’s made progress though; an inmate tells
him there have been other deaths and rumour has it they are down to
the Phantom, a dude who roams the asylum at night offing inmates with
his weapon of choice; a Punjab lasso. Scary stuff, indeed.
Elizabeth and Riordan follow a lead to the town of Kalamazoo and Elizabeth cracks the case – she knows who the Phantom is and Will is at risk… he has to be warned. But can Elizabeth get back to Detroit in time to save him?
The end is a cracker – Will races through tunnels under Eloise, almost drowning as the tunnels fill with water, only to come face to face with the Phantom. Is there a happy ending? Does the Phantom get what’s coming to him? You will have to read Detroit Breakdown to find out. The whole family, teens to grandma, will enjoy this well written, exciting and hugely entertaining mystery.
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