Ferndale potboiler

Religious wackos, potheads, burnouts and a kidnapped child

Crimes of Love

by Donald Levin

Poison Toe Press, $14, 284 pp.


Another bit of pulp fiction in a local setting, author Donald Levin's Crimes of Love is set north of Eight Mile Road — in Ferndale. Intended to be the first in a series of books starring fictional detective Martin Preuss, Crimes is the story of a search for a missing 7-year-old girl who disappears from the mean streets of the 'Dale one cold November night. 

Stranger kidnapping of a child — a very rare crime according to the FBI's own statistics — would seem an overblown crime to center another potboiler on, especially for those of us force-fed the JonBenét Ramsey case at a tender age. (The blood-covered toy bunny on the cover is another bit of overkill.)

But it's not that simple. As the case unfolds, we come into contact with religious wackos, pot-addled teenagers, overweight sex offenders, mentally unstable shut-ins, Cass Corridor burnouts — even a hard-hitting reporter from some weekly rag called Metro Voice. Levin seems to have some knowledge of law enforcement work, as the relationships and tensions among and inside different police units smack of truth. Although the story culminates in a satisfying climax of gunplay and destruction, it also shows the dull drudgery of a cop's life: the internal politics, the paperwork, the briefings, the cheap coffee and late-night stakeouts. Levin develops his characters pretty well; this story doesn't have any black-hatted villains so much as just a bunch of dumb, vain, careless people acting out a tragedy of errors. (And that's probably how a lot of detectives end up seeing it.)

Although Levin's ear for dialogue could be better (do Ferndale's teenage stoners still call it a "doobie"?), Crimes keeps you turning the pages, wondering where all this is going, and how much more absurd things will get. And it doesn't disappoint.