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

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sometimes it seems like Paradise, Michigan is truly north of nowhere. It is isolated on the Upper Peninsula, brutally hot in the summer, cold and snowy in the winter, home to very few people and vacation destination only for those willing to rough it. There are those, however, who would like to change all that, who would like to make this into a luxurious vacation destination or place to live complete with all the amenities. This sort of vision is anathema to Alex McKnight, the reluctant P.I. who solves mysteries in spite of himself.

This story opens when his old buddy Jackie Connery visits Alex and threatens to send him up to the Yukon if he doesnít start socializing a little more. In fact he wants to take Alex to a poker game that night at the home of Winston Vargas. Vargas is a wealthy man with a large mansion and a small yippy dog. He sells custom made appliances to people building luxury homes and he is seeking new outlets for his merchandise. During the poker game, a regular occurrence with regular attendees except for Alex, three men break into the house, steal the money from Vargasís safe, and destroy his collection of maps and artifacts from Lake Superior. The police believe that Jackie and two other poker players planned the whole caper. Vargas actually thinks maybe Alex was responsible. Alex has no choice but to find out who really is to blame.

There is, as always in Hamiltonís books, an amazing sense of place. The reader is put right into this lonely desolate lovely part of the world. We see and feel the snows of winter and the hot sun of summer. We can almost visualize the sunsets over Lake Superior. And that lake, deep, dark, blue and dangerous, is like a character, tamed but not broken, always ready to take another life.

The book is so well-written it just flows along. The reader can lose herself in the story and forget that time is passing. It was hard for me to even come up for air. Nothing jars, nothing clashes, nothing gets in the way of enjoying the yarn. From his first book, Hamilton has simply gotten better and better.

The characters are well-drawn and complex. Alex is likable and annoying. I wanted to kick him a couple of times and I wanted to cry with him at other times. Every single character is authentic and none is all black or all white. Even the villains are people for whom we are bound to have sympathy.

The plot is fast-paced and exciting and at no time did I guess the resolution of it. Had I stopped and thought, I might have, but Hamilton never allowed me to do that. The suspense simply grew and grew throughout the book until the ultimate scenes out on Lake Superior racing death and mayhem to right wrongs and unmask the guilty.

Reviewed by Sally A. Fellows, July 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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