Michigan history is at the forefront of a pair of recent releases; one’s a top-notch legal thriller while the other is great for children or libraries.
“To Account for Murder”, by Lansing author William C. Whitbeck (Permanent Press, $28) is a remarkable debut novel that’s set mostly in the capital city in the mid 1940’s.
It’s loosely based on the sensational, unsolved murder of Sen. Warren G. Hooper, who was slain before he could testify about political corruption.
It features Charles Cahill, the son of a bootlegger, who’s returned home from World War Two. In the first chapter, Cahill acknowledges that he shot State Senator Harry Maynard; he’s been having an affair with the senator’s wife. Ironically Cahill gets a job assisting on the grand jury investigation of the case.
Cahill is balancing carefully on a tightrope fearing exposure, dealing with war flashbacks, corruption and greed, Purple Gang thugs, payoffs, violence, double-crosses and much more.
The author is at his best when describing behind-the- scenes courtroom dealings and corruption; unexpected plot twists make this highly atmospheric novel even more enjoyable.
Whitbeck, who is the Chief Judge of the Michigan Court of appeals, deftly provides a well-researched, tantalizing, tale ideal for those who love legal thrillers or historical novels.
“The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan” (Sterling, $12.95) by Grand Rapids author Susan Collins Thoms is a nifty children’s book that’s illustrated by Ann Arbor’s Deb Pilutti.
Using the Twelve Days of Christmas as a guideline, Thoms alters the theme so that it relates exclusively to Michigan – instead of a partridge in a pear tree, it’s a robin in a white pine, etc.
The colorful, vivid illustrations by Pilutti accompany the informative text, which is written in the format of a daily letter home sent by an inquisitive visiting cousin.
This is a great visual introduction to Michigan history that factually covers a lot of ground, from the Upper Peninsula and the Great Lakes to Detroit and Mackinac Island.
Two additional illustrated pages showcase other highlights; a brief listing of eight famous Michiganders is also provided.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books and crime novels regularly since 1987.