D.E. Johnson I had no idea this was the third book in the series. Now that I know, I have to read the first two books because I loved the third book. You can still follow Detroit Breakdown without having read the first two. There are a few instances where I think it would have helped to have read the first two books, but overall I was entertained.
It's 1912 Detroit when we meet Will Anderson and Elizabeth Hume. They are still rebuilding their relationship when crisis hits Elizabeth's family. Her cousin Robert, who is locked up at Eloise Insane Asylum, is accused of murder. Elizabeth refuses to believe it. That's not the Robert she knows. Robert has mental issues, but he's not a violent person. Will and Elizabeth decide to investigate the murder with some help from a local cop, Detective Riordan. To get to the truth, Elizabeth must face her own demons. Robert is more than just her cousin, he is Elizabeth's brother. This is a time when mental illness was considered shameful. Instead of acknowledging Robert as her son, Elizabeth's mother lets everyone believe he is her nephew. Elizabeth's own mother is teetering on the edge of sanity. Some moments she is very lucid, and sometimes she is very wackadoodle!! Given the family history, Elizabeth is worried about her own sanity. How long before she becomes just like her mother and Robert?
The investigation into the murder at Eloise is a dangerous one. Will has himself committed to Eloise in order to investigate from the inside. Questioning the doctor in charge, Dr. Beckwith, is useless. He's hiding something. Perhaps Will can get the real story if he is disguised as a patient. Elizabeth also disguises herself and gets a job as a volunteer. While at Eloise, Will discovers that it's not just one murder they are dealing with. Four men have been murdered. The killer's weapon of choice? A Punjab lasso, just like in Phantom of the Opera. If you listen to the patients, the Phantom is more myth than reality. To the other patients, the Phantom isn't human. He can't be caught. He will kill all the patients before anyone discovers the truth.
What goes on in Eloise is just astounding. The methods of "treatment" are more akin to torture. The "doctors" believe they know better, despite patients screaming in pain. Will pretends to have amnesia. In many ways he is a model patient, he follows rules but that is not enough for Dr. Beckwith. Will is still tortured despite following the rules. I often wondered if he was going to die before discovering the truth. Will he descend into madness just like the rest of the patients? The doctors, especially Beckwith, get some sick pleasure out of torturing their patients.
There is a lot of suspense throughout the book. When you finally learn the identity of the killer, it wasn't what I was expecting. I was speed-reading the last 60 pages because I wanted to know who the killer was. The book leads you to believe another person is the killer. It was a nice surprise at the end. The last few chapters is a race against time. Does Will survive after coming face to face with the killer? Will Elizabeth get to Will in time to save him? The whole time I was rooting for the both of them to survive. I'm a romantic at heart, and want them to live happily ever after. Of course I won't tell you the answer because you have to read the book!!
Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Macmillan) at the request of the author's publicist (Wunderkind PR)