A “grind joint” is a small casino, usually aimed at a very local market, often blue-collar. No fancy showrooms or Asian billionaires playing baccarat at $100,000 a hand. Just slots, tables, whiskey, and second-rate food. The casino in the audiobook of Grind Joint (Dana King, 2014) is not even open yet. It’s under construction and eagerly awaited by many residents of Penns River, a fading mill town not far from Pittsburgh.
On the opening page, the corpse of a drug dealer is found at its front door, kickstarting King’s plot.There are plenty of goings-on surrounding the discovery of the body — police intrigue, Mafiosi, Russian mobsters, lots of tough talk, and more — but at the novel’s heart lie the personal ethics of the people of Penns River, not only of central character Detective Ben Dougherty and his co-workers, but of ordinary civilians as well.
This audiobook is in many ways really a display of solid small-town values, which have long formed the spine of America. I’m sure King didn’t set out to do it that way, but in addition to a page-turning crime novel laced with living dialogue and a potful of tension, he offers up a unique, back-door vision of good people faced with hard, dwindling choices while their hometown languishes on the ropes.