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by Steve Hamilton
Minotaur Books, May 2002
259 pages
ISBN: 0312268971

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

He's just turned 49 years old, and failure seems to be the theme of his life. He's failed at marriage, at a career in baseball, as a police officer and partner and as a private investigator. Living in a remote cabin in Paradise, Michigan, Alex McKnight has begun to isolate himself from the world. But his friend, Jackie, proprietor of a bar and restaurant that is Alex's refuge, won't let his pal become a hermit. He shows up at Alex's door and offers him one of two options-he will pay Alex's expenses for a trip to Moosehide, Yukon, where even the moose are lonely or Alex has to come to a poker game that evening at a local developer's home. Alex reluctantly chooses the latter, knowing that Jackie has good intentions.

The poker game consists of the obnoxious rich developer, Win Vargas, Jackie, Alex and 3 other friends. Vargas is one of those guys who has to brag about his materialistic accomplishments. Alex can't stand him, purely for the fact that he wants to turn the pristine wilderness into one of those nouveau riche enclaves with security guards, gates and sodded lawns. As the game progresses, the stakes become higher than expected when several men with guns show up and rob the place.

When Jackie and the others are arrested after being set up, Alex knows that he is the only one that can help them out and prove them innocent. He at first contacts his old PI partner, Leon Prudell, who is wary and uncooperative. He's been tailing Vargas' wife, who Win suspects is being unfaithful. Vargas is Leon's only client, and he pays him well. Prudell isn't really willing to sacrifice his dream of being a successful PI for one of Alex's misadventures. In the past, Alex was a reluctant PI at best. By his own reckoning, he's had his ass kicked in every case he ever worked on. In this situation, he doesn't even consider that he is investigating. It's just something that he needs to do to support his best (and just about only) friend.

This book is superlative on every count. Each of the characters if fully developed and has his own voice, with the dialog as natural as if you were listening to them speak with a hidden tape recorder under the table. The plot is wonderfully complex and takes several twists and turns, many of which are unexpected but none of which are implausible. The setting, as always, is almost like another character. Add to that Hamilton's wit, smoothly written prose and impeccable sense of pacing, and you have a winner.

North of Nowhere is the fourth book in the series and quite possibly the best. I appreciated everything about it, most especially the well-done resolution which has been a huge weakness in a majority of the books that I have read lately. Five stars, thumbs up, don't wait for the paperback!

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, June 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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