Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Misery Bay, reviewed

It's been a while since the last Alex McKnight novel, and it was worth the wait. Author Steve Hamilton (recent Edgar Award winner) does a good job of slipping back into the familiar characters and settings of the series, while still keeping it fresh. He feeds you just enough information from past books to refresh your memory, while also helping out first-time readers of the series. (So, you don't need to have read earlier novels to enjoy this one.) Some of the usual, secondary characters of past books just appear in minor roles here (like Leon, McKnight's ex PI partner), but their use is natural and not forced; their appearance fits and enhances the plot line.

And what is the plot? It starts with the suicide of a college student. Chief of Police Roy Maven, McKnight's occasional nemesis, asks McKnight to look into the suicide, who was the son of Maven's ex-partner, see if there is anything more to it. Of course, there is. When more suicides happen—along with the murders of the suicides' fathers (all ex or current cops)—Maven and McKnight begin to believe that Maven himself may be in danger, not to mention Maven's daughter. A race against time to find the killer begins.

In between some of the chapters are neat, one page movie directions, spoken by an unknown director that really gives the book a scary, intriguing mood. It's a good concept that works, and adds to the overall mystery and tension. As usual, the setting is Michigan's upper peninsula (UP), which, especially in winter, gives the story a bleak, desolate feel. Hamilton's writing is excellent, and moves along at a good, quick pace, no wasted words wasted here. A new, deeper relationship has developed between McKnight and Maven, and it will be interesting to see how Hamilton handles this in future novels.

Misery Bay is an excellent, fast-paced mystery. I wouldn't be surprised if another Edgar is in Hamilton's future.

4 Stars

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