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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading List: Misery Bay

Hamilton, Steve. Misery Bay. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011. ISBN 978-0-312-38043-4.
I haven't been reading many mysteries recently, but when I happened to listen to a podcast interview with the author of this book set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, less than twelve hours before departing on a trip to precisely that destination, I could only conclude that the Cosmic Coincidence Control Centre was telling me to read this book, so I promptly downloaded the Kindle edition and read it after arrival. I'm glad I did.

This is the eighth novel in the author's Alex McKnight series, but it is perfectly accessible to readers (like myself) who start here. The story is recounted in the first person by McKnight, a former Detroit cop who escaped the cruel streets of that failed metropolis after a tragic episode, relocating to the town of Paradise in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where he intends to make a living renting cabins, but finds himself reluctantly involved as a private investigator in crimes which cross his path.

In the present book, McKnight agrees to look into the circumstances of the apparent suicide of the son of a friend and former colleague of McKnight's nemesis, police chief Roy Maven. This errand, undertaken on behalf of a distraught father who cannot imagine any motive for his son's taking his life, spirals into what appears to be a baffling cluster of suicides and murders involving current and former police officers and their children. McKnight seeks to find the thread which might tie these seemingly unrelated events together, along with a pair of FBI agents who, being feds, seem more concerned with protecting their turf than catching crooks.

Along with many twists and turns as the story develops and gripping action scenes, Hamilton does a superb job evoking the feel of the Upper Peninsula, where the long distances, sparse population, and extreme winters provide a background more like Montana than something you'd expect east of the Mississippi. In the end, the enigma is satisfyingly resolved and McKnight, somewhat the worse for wear, is motivated to turn the next corner in his life where, to be sure, other mysteries await.

Posted at June 23, 2011 19:09