A Cold Day in Paradise: An Alex McKnight Mystery
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Minotaur|
Other than the bullet lodged less than a centimeter from his heart, former Detroit police officer Alex McKnight thought he had put the nightmare of his partner’s death and his own near-fatal injury behind him. After all, Maximilian Rose, convicted of the crimes, has been locked in the state pen for years, But in the small town of Paradise, Michigan, where McKnight has traded his badge for a cozy cabin in the woods, a murderer with Rose’s unmistakable trademarks appears to be back to his killing ways. With Rose locked away, McKnight can’t understand who else would know the intimate details of the old murders—not to mention the signature blood-red rose left on his doorstep. And it seems like it’ll be a frozen day in Hell before McKnight can unravel the cold truth from a deadly deception in a town that’s anything but Paradise.
Doing their best to ensure the future of the genre, St. Martin’s Press and the Private Eye Writers of America give out an award every year for the Best First Private Eye Novel. The 1997 winner was this splendidly evocative work by IBM employee Steve Hamilton, which takes just about every cliché in the field and turns it inside out. Yes, Alex McKnight was an athlete in his youth—but a minor league baseball player, not a top pro forced out by injury. And yes, he was a cop in Detroit before he moved up to the town of Paradise on the shores of Lake Superior—but even this overused genre icon is made believable by the details of a particularly bloody shootout. In Paradise, Alex runs a hunting camp built by his late father and only drifts into private investigations because of two friends, a persuasive lawyer and a local millionaire with a gambling problem who needs his help. When two bookmakers are murdered and the millionaire disappears, all the signs point to the psychopath who killed McKnight’s partner and left a slug near Alex’s heart 14 years before. The only problem is that this man has definitely, positively been in prison ever since. You might figure out the plot twists a page or two before McKnight does, but don’t bet the farm on it. And the deep layer of details that Hamilton provides about life in this bleak part of the world add to the book’s many pleasures. —Dick Adler
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Steve Hamilton is a star on the rise, and will appeal to fans of Jonathan Kellerman’s Delaware, Michael Connelly’s Bosch, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels. A Cold Day In Paradise introduces readers to the ornery, yet likeable, Alex McKnight, an ex-Detroit cop, and a current—and somewhat reluctant—P.I., with a haunting past and a very dangerous present. In a shoot-out that killed his partner years before, McKnight was plugged three times himself; the cold steel of one bullet still rests against his heart. Years after relocating to Michigan’s frigid Upper Peninsula in a futile attempt to quell his guilt surrounding his partner’s death, McKnight can’t escape his escalating horror as the bodies mount around him, and the terrifying letters appear. It seems that the deranged killer who ended McKnight’s police career and his partner’s life has returned to appease his twisted jollies once again. This brilliant, chilling debut (Hamilton’s recurring image of blood is difficult to forget) won 1999’s Edgar
Award for Best First Novel. —Andrew LeCount