August Snow: review

August Snow
Stephen Mack Jones
Soho Press

August This one was a can-I-read-all-day Saturday followed by a maybe-I-should-skip-church Sunday kinda book. Good thing I finished before the workweek started or it might have been a I-have-a-little-cough-cough-cold Monday. Stephen Mack Jones’ first novel August Snow is that good.

August Snow is a former Detroit police detective who blew the whistle on the city’s mayor, was unceremoniously fired–and later won damages for wrongful termination. He’s filthy rich. And determined to transform the lives of his neighbors and the street he grew up on in Mexicantown. After August turns down a request to help a wealthy white socialite, he is quickly drawn into investigating her suspicious death just a few days later. (Actually, it’s suspicious to August–the police call it a suicide.) Like so many other crime novels, the story turns on the tropes of the trade: cars with blackout windows tailing, surprise visits by thugs, gun fights, and a mysterious computer hacker thrown in for good measure.

But the genre wasn’t what made August Snow so fun–for this Michiganian it was the references to the Motor City and all things Michigan: the Tigers and Lions, Fisher Theater, Eight Mile, and Woodward Ave. The crooked mayor serving time for his crimes. Even a peek at our up North with a trip to Traverse City. (Nancy Pearl, NPR librarian extraordinaire, even said she briefly considered moving back to Detroit while reading it.)

Even that wouldn’t be enough to carry a novel, though, no matter how much it felt like home.

No, the reason to read August Snow is the man himself. He is a smart ass who leaves no dig undug, a rebel who is more interested in what’s right than who’s in charge. He loves children and old ladies alike with the same good heart, and his friends are as dear as brothers. He wants his neighborhood safe so kids could once again play ball in the street. He thinks more about his neighbors than he does himself. But heartache is no stranger to August, and he has walled his off against any more loss. August Snow is a Real Man–and I say that without a trace of irony. I loved the guy.

After listening to an interview with the author on Michigan Public Radio’s show Stateside, I have a hunch that writer Stephen Mack Jones might be just as interesting as his characters.

Good thing Jones isn’t sure he and August are finished playing yet.


Read my post about a chilly spring trip to Detroit here.

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