Scott Martelle's biography of Detroit (Chicago Review Press, 2011) begins with its early history as a French fort and fur -trading settlement. Advantageously situated on fertile land at a bend of the Detroit River connecting two Great Lakes, Detroit prospered. After the completion of the Erie Canal and Soo Locks, products could make their way by ship from Lake Superior to New York. Martelle recounts these auspicious beginnings, describes the mechanical geniuses who called it home, and brings to life the vibrant, restless city they built. In trying to figure out how Detroit came to be what it is today, the author focuses primarily on labor struggles and race, which means he bypasses other important cultural factors, including religion and ethnicity, that could complicate his greed and racism narrative.