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by Steve Hamilton
St. Martin's, February 2000
287 pages
ISBN: 0312969198

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you can imagine Matt Scudder as an ex-minor league baseball player who had been a cop in Detroit, before a shootout in which his partner was killed, and now lives in a hunting cabin near Paradise in the northern Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and works as a PI, then you have Alex McKnight, Steve Hamilton's contribution to noir literature. And oh, by the way, Alex has a bullet lodged close to his heart, a memento of that shootout 14 years before.

In this exceptionally strong first outing, Alex's friend, Edwin Fulton, a rather pathetic rich man with a beautiful wife and a gambling problem, calls McKnight to come to a motel in Sault Ste Marie. When Alex gets there, he sees the bled-out body of a known bookie. He promptly calls the police and explains the situation.

Alex has been living quietly in Paradise, taking care of the 6 cabins his father had built many years before. Alex helped built the first, and smallest cabin, and that's where he lives now, quietly maintaining the cabins, doing chores, playing a little poker with his friends, and generally staying out of trouble

When another bookie is killed shortly thereafter, Police Chief Maven starts suspecting Alex, and McKnight has to try and find the true murderer in order to get Maven off his back. He has flashbacks to that time, 14 years before, when his partner was killed and he took 3 bullets. The murders of the bookies seems to have seeds in that time also.

This book won both the Edgar and Shamus awards. No other first mystery novel has ever done that. Hamilton has created a cast of real people to populate his town on the shore of the largest, coldest lake in the world.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, June 2002

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