First Sentence: I was shot in the back at close range by a .32-caliber handgun yet did not die, at least not permanently.
Rushmore "Mac" MacKenzie is a former cop now spending his time by taking on unofficial private investigations as favors for his friends, some of whom are more law-abiding than others. It all starts when his friend Deese takes a genealogy-site DNA test and learns his father is not his father. But is that what led to Mac being shot in the back? Now lying in a medically-induced coma, it is up to Mac's friends to do a favor for him and track down his would-be killer.
What a unique premise. While the solving of the crime is left up to his diverse and fascinating assortment of friends with incidents shown from their perspective, the story is told, by post coma, by Mac. This gives a somewhat out-of-body feel to the narration. The book does mention COVID-19, although it was clearly written at the very beginning of the pandemic.
Housewright has compiled a fascinating collection of characters. Many are recurring characters that add to the overall series. Some, such as Detective Shipman, are new and add a touch of vinegar to the story. That Nina, Mac's wife and owner of jazz club, confesses being jealous of Shelby, the wife of Mac's best friend, is perfectly written and exemplifies how women almost never realize their own worth or successes.
The story segues into various relevant topics are insightful and add a layer to the story beyond the basic investigation. Rather than being intrusive or slowing the pace, they add a layer of significance.
Housewright is an eminently quotable author. Whether talking about emotional pain—"It reminds me of that old Skeeter Davis song. I wake up in the morning and I wonder why everything's the same as it was."—or referencing Shakespeare to impart a facial expression—"I need you to do something for me," she said. The way Smith and Jones glanced at each other yet again somehow reminded Shipman of Shakespeare's Richard III – I am not in the giving vein today."—or a t-shirt meme—"YOU MATTER unless you multiply yourself by the speed of light squared…then you energy."—his words are relatable.
Unconventional twists are sometimes so cleverly done as to make one smile. The story of Deese and the unintended result of taking the DNA test is one that could serve as a caution. But there is also a well-done twist that circles the plot back to the motive.
"What Doesn't Kill Us" is a well-done, non-stop read. The plethora of characters can be confusing, but collectively they consolidate the notes into a melody line that makes the story sing.
WHAT DOESN'T KILL US (PI-Rushmore MacKenzie-Twin Cities-Contemp) – VG
Minotaur Books, May 2021, 345 pp.