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by Steve Hamilton
Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press, June 2003
304 pages
ISBN: 0312301154

At various times in their relationship, Alex McKnight and his best friend, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who lives in a nearby cabin rather than on the reservation, find themselves at odds with one another. They always manage to set aside their differences, even though there are sometimes some major issues between them. The relationship between Alex and Vinnie is beautifully drawn. They are definitely brothers in spirit, if not in blood, and come through for each other time and again.

Although it's October and a hard Michigan winter is imminent, Alex is determined to rebuild a burned-down cabin on the campgrounds that he runs. The cabin had originally been constructed by his father, and Alex views it as his legacy. It's almost an impossible task without help. Even though they had experienced a serious rift, Vinnie shows up and begins to help Alex out. Soon the tables are turned, however, when Vinnie confides in Alex that he is worried about his brother, Tom, who was hired to guide a group of men on a hunting trip to Canada. His return date is long past due. Tom had served a short prison term and is on parole in Michigan, which means that he was not allowed to leave the United States. Vinnie can't go to the police about Tom's disappearance, since he let Tom assume his identity in his zeal to help his brother get back on his feet.

Alex and Vinnie follow the leads up to a small hunting lodge in Ontario, Canada, where they turn up more questions than answers. As he always does, Hamilton beautifully describes the setting so that the reader truly feels they are at the location with the characters. The local law enforcement agency becomes involved, as well as the members of a local Canadian Indian tribe. The men move on to a remote lake. What they find there is horrifying beyond words. Stranded in the wilderness, they face many challenges and grievous injuries. The excitement ratchets up to heart-stopping intensity, over and over again. Hamilton is a master of suspense.

Normally, as a reviewer, when I read a book my critical brain is turned on so that I can capture what worked and didn't work for me. However, what I find with Hamilton's books is that I don't do that at all. Instead, I pick up the book and gobble it down without taking a breath, only stopping to do things like eat and sleep. I am so engrossed and engaged that I do not see any flaws whatsoever. To paraphrase a famous movie, "he has me at hello".

Since this is a review, I do feel obligated to offer some critique of the book. Here is what did not work for me: It was too short. It kept me up late. It made me care too much for the characters. It made me laugh and it made me cry. It increased my heart rate to scary levels.

Now do you know what you're in for?

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, February 0076

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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