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by Steve Hamilton
St Martin's Minotaur, June 2004
320 pages
ISBN: 0312301219

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Buy this book and set it aside for the hottest day of the year. Then, when it's sweltering outside, settle down with Hamilton's ICE RUN and cool off with his vivid descriptions of a winter on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Alex McKnight, one of the most engaging sleuths in the whole PI genre, is back. It's January in a year that hasn't yet produced enough snow to bring folks north for winter sports and Alex has time on his hands. He can't seem to stop thinking about Natalie Reynaud, the Ontario provincial police officer he got to know in BLOOD IS THE SKY. In fact, as the story opens, Alex goes so far as to color his graying hair in an effort to appear more youthful. It's a ridiculous gesture, and he knows it, but it's a measure of how head-over-heels our guy is that he actually goes through with it.

A big snowstorm has just begun when he calls Natalie and asks her to meet him at a classy old hotel in Soo, Canada for a few days of romance. Natalie hesitates at first, and then finally agrees, but by the time Alex gets on the road, the storm has blocked all highways headed north and he must wait until the following day to join Natalie.

When he finally arrives at the hotel, he encounters an old man in the lobby who is wearing a distinctive antique homburg. The man accompanies Alex to his floor and makes sure he notices the hat. A short time later, Alex and Natalie have dinner in the hotel restaurant and the gentleman toasts them with champagne. When they return to their room, they find his hat, filled with snow, and an enigmatic note outside their door. A short time later, the old man is found frozen to death in a snow bank.

So begins the most intensely personal of the McKnight adventures. Love and concern for Natalie drive Alex to help her uncover her family's secrets that hearken all the way back to the gangster days of Prohibition.

This book is a winner. Hamilton has lovingly sketched the locale, the central characters are sympathetic and well-drawn, and the pages fly as we follow Alex through the blinding storm to protect the woman he loves.

Having said all that, this is not Hamilton's best book. The plot is too complicated, veering as it does across three generations of family history without enough back story to sustain the ride. There are a few too many genre clichés: a convenient, explanatory videotape appears at a critical juncture, and the bad guy makes the obligatory confession while he holds a gun on our hero. Still, Hamilton writes so beautifully that I forgave him all of it. After hanging onto the back of McKnight's snowmobile for a few hours, I'm still just trying to get warm.

Reviewed by Carroll Johnson, June 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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