Mahoney’s Camaro, by Michael J. Clark

Eight stars

Michael J. Clark returns with another gritty Canadian crime novel, set in the heart of 1980s Winnipeg, where crack is as plentiful as mixed cassette tapes. When a tow truck driver is called to the edge of the Red River, he cannot believe what he’s seeing. A beautiful 1967 Camaro has been driven into the water and its owner is handcuffed to the steering wheel in an apparent suicide. After delivering the car to the impound lot, Steve Mahoney makes a play for the vehicle at auction, sure that it will help him restore his own Camaro. As Steve begins to use parts from the car, he soon realises that there is more to the vehicle than meet the eye. Now, Steve’s been sent on a mission to find a killer as he races through the streets of Winnipeg. Meanwhile, someone’s looking for him as well, hoping to silence any inquiries before they take flight. A nostalgic and humorous spin on the crime novel, Clark entertains throughout in this great piece of writing.

Steve Mahoney has dreams for himself in the summer of 1985. He wants to open his own mechanic shop, but does not have the money. Working as a tow truck driver, Mahoney trolls the streets of Winnipeg at night, waiting for calls to help unlucky motorists. When one call sends him to the edge of the Red River, Mahoney is shocked to see a ‘67 Camaro submerged in the murky depths. Pulling it out, Mahoney can only think about how this vehicle could be the answer to his prayers, or at least his parts dilemma of the Camaro he’s been trying to restore.

When the body of a young woman is found handcuffed to the steering wheel, Mahoney must wait for it to be cleared before he takes it to an impound lot. However, it would seem that the Winnipeg Police are sure this was a cut and dry suicide and they quickly release the vehicle. Mahoney snatches it up at auction, hoping that this will be a gift he never saw coming. What he discovers while removing parts will not only shock him, but really throw a wrench into things.

The ghost of Heather Price remains linked to the vehicle, more than the smell permeating from the seats. An accountant with some questionable practices, Price convinces Mahoney that she did not commit suicide, but was murdered for what she knew about a sketchy used car dealer. She vows to haunt the Camaro until Mahoney gets her the justice she feels is deserved. Turning into an amateur sleuth, Mahoney must piece things together in order to make sense of a crime that could have significant blowback, all while living life in the heart of Winnipeg. A great thriller that will entertain any reader with an open mind, Clark took me back to my childhood and memories of a simpler Winnipeg!

There’s something about reading a book set in your hometown, even more so when you can picture many of the locales. Michael J. Clark does a masterful job of bringing Winnipeg to life in the summer of 1985, adding a gritty story to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Without the need for complex legal or investigative analysis, Clark provides the reader with an entertaining piece of writing that never tries to be something it’s not.

As the title suggests, Steve Mahoney is the protagonist and has much to prove. While enjoying work as a tow truck driver, he aspires for more. The reader learns a little about him throughout the book, which provides a decent amount of backstory and some tidbits of character development. Mahoney is thrust into the middle of a mystery, all in the hopes of ridding himself of this apparition that has affixed itself to his Camaro. Now, he’ll have to face some of the rougher side of Winnipeg to provide justice to a woman who got caught up in it all.

Michael J. Clark has penned a few novels, all of which have made Winnipeg (or Southern Manitoba) their home base. While this may not matter much to most readers, being from the area, I found myself connecting with the narrative even more. Clark offers wonderful detail in his storytelling, such that the images from my youth re-emerged in my mind and left me feeling even more keen to move through the story. Gritty characters, many with their own backstories, offered a great flavour to the piece, giving the reader a variety of perspectives throughout. The story’s pacing and chapter lengths kept the momentum up throughout and left me feeling as though things were working to my advantage throughout the reading experience. I cannot wait for more by the author, particularly if he keeps close to home, being a Winnipegger.

Kudos, Mr Clark, for another great piece. I love the unique style and can only hope others will ‘get’ it.