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WHAT DOESN’T KILL US by David Housewright: Book Review

It started off innocently enough, with a favor for a close friend.  Rushmore McKenzie is approached by his long-time buddy David Deese, who has a problem that is becoming increasingly common in this internet age.  Deese’s sister T (never Terry or Rese or any other logical nickname for her given name of Teresa) had sent a sample of her DNA to an ancestry-testing website and had been pestering her brother to do the same.  He ignored her request for a while but then suddenly, and secretly, sent his DNA sample to the same company.

And, like many unexpected things, this one proves to have unexpected consequences.  Instead of the result Deese expects, his DNA shows that he and T are only half-siblings, and that the man whom he believed was his biological father was, in fact, no relation to him at all.  Severely shaken by this news, Deese tells neither his wife nor his sister, but instead confides in McKenzie and asks him to find out more about his new family.  So McKenzie, who can never turn down a request for a favor, starts out to do just that.

What Doesn’t Kill Us has a storyline I haven’t come across before.  In the book’s foreward called Just So You Know, the reader learns that in the course of his investigation McKenzie was shot in the back by a .32 caliber handgun “yet did not die, at least not permanently.”  Because his heart stopped twice, the second time for four minutes and ten seconds, he was placed in a medically-induced coma, and much of the narrative consists of things that happened while he was unconscious and were told to him after the fact.  It’s a very clever device.

Because McKenzie has done so many favors for so many people, his friends rush to find the person who attempted to kill him.  Those friends are a disparate group–his closest friend Bobby Dunston, a police commander in St. Paul; “Chopper” Coleman, a former drug pusher, now a ticket scalper who is one step ahead of the law; Chopper’s assistant Herzog, who has been in and out of prison multiple times for burglary, manslaughter, and weapons charges; Riley Brodin-Mulally, a wealthy corporate executive; Dave Deese, of course; and several others who feel that they owe McKenzie big-time and will do anything to help him.

The only person who is less than enthusiastic about McKenzie is Jean Shipman, a detective on the St. Paul police force.  She’d rather be investigating anything, even jaywalking, than looking into the shooting, but Bobby Dunston is adamant.  You are my best investigator, he tells her, and I want you on the case to the exclusion of everything else.  Put that way, she can hardly refuse.

The Rushmore McKenzie series is a long one, but What Doesn’t Kill Us, number eighteen, gives the reader enough information to understand McKenzie’s background, how he came to resign from the police force, become an unlicensed private investigator, and meet and marry his wife Nina.  David Housewright is a skilled author whose plots are riveting and whose characters are alive and realistic.  He never disappoints.

David Housewright is an Edgar-winning author and past President of the Private Eye Writers of America.  You can read more about him at this website

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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