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Book Author: David Housewright

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.

THE TAKING OF LIBBIE, SD by David Housewright: Book Review

Rushmore McKenzie has more lives than a cat. In the first chapter of The Taking of Libbie, SD McKenzie is kidnapped, Tasered, thrown in a trunk, and driven from his home in Minnesota to Libbie, South Dakota, a town whose motto is RULES, REGULATIONS, AND RESPECT.  You think?

Rushmore McKenzie (what were his parents thinking?) is a former policeman who was able to retire when he came into a great deal of money.  Now McKenzie spends his time doing favors for friends, as he puts it.  But was it doing a favor that landed him in Libbie, SD?

It turns out there is a relatively simple explanation for the two men who abducted him and brought him across the state border. Several weeks before, a man using McKenzie’s name had fleeced the small town out of a big chunk of its annual budget, just how much no one will say.  The impostor said his company wanted to build a shopping mall, and the town council and the mayor were only too happy to hand over money to get the ball rolling.  The only problem was that there were no plans to build the mall, and The impostor left town in the middle of the night and hasn’t been seen since.  Two thugs, hired by the town’s arrogant and wealthy mayor, were sent to pick McKenzie up and bring him back to Libbie for justice, but when he was deposited at the police station everyone recognized that he wasn’t the man they were looking for.

You’d think the real McKenzie would head home to the Twin Cities at this point, which he does, but only to say goodbye to his friends and then return to South Dakota.  He’s determined to find the man who used his name so convincingly.

For a small town, there’s a lot going on in Libbie, SD.  Besides the shopping mall fraud, there’s arson, adultery, and agoraphobia, and that’s only the a’s.  When two people are murdered shortly after McKenzie returns, he’s more determined than ever to find out what’s really happening in this town.

David Housewright knows a lot of interesting facts  about life in rural South Dakota.  Never having even passed through that part of the country, the remoteness of it is amazing to me–no clothing stores within five or six hours of this town; entire counties in the state without physicians; college graduates departing the Great Plains for the cities, leaving behind an elderly population having a hard time dealing with things economically and emotionally.  That partially explains the town’s eagerness to invest in the shopping mall scheme–it’s something to bring money and life back to a town with no future.  It’s a sad portrait of a dying part of America.

This ex-cop is a bit different from the usual detective hero, and I like him.  He has a lot of depth, thinks things through, and when he does something that he later feels isn’t right, he suffers for it.  This is the seventh book about Rushmore McKenzie, and I plan to go back to see how he got to be who he is now.

You can read more about David Housewright at his web site.