Book: Blood is the Sky

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Blood is the Sky: An Alex McKnight Novel

Author: Steve Hamilton
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks

Alex McKnight isn’t a man with many friends, but the few he has know they’re never alone in a fix. So when Vinnie LeBlanc asks for his help in taking a trip deep into Canada in search of his missing brother, the Ojibwa Indian knows he can count on Alex. Tom LeBlanc had taken a job as hunting guide for a rough crew of Detroit “businessmen.” The group was due back days ago, yet there’s been no sign of them, and there’s mounting evidence of something odd about their disappearing act. The trackless forests of northern Ontario keep many secrets, but none more shocking than the one that Alex is about to uncover. And the more closely Alex looks for answers, the more the questions become: where are the hunters…and who is the prey?


One of the most promising secondary figures in Steve Hamilton’s series about reluctant northern Michigan private investigator Alex McKnight has been his teetotal Ojibwa Indian pal, Vinnie LeBlanc. Vinnie mostly kept himself to himself in the first four McKnight adventures but Blood Is the Sky finally lets him loose, and it’s both pleasurable and painful to see what results.

Vinnie’s younger ex-con brother Tom has disappeared. In violation of his parole, Tom had guided a small contingent of moose hunters into the pacific forests of Ontario, but none of them had returned home on schedule. To assuage Vinnie’s worries, McKnight agrees to drive with him into Canada and look for the men. No luck: the owners of a money-losing lakeside lodge where those sportsmen had stayed say they departed days ago. So where did they go? Who were the two other, unidentified guys who came looking for them in advance of McKnight and his friend? And why was the hunters’ vehicle abandoned, with their wallets inside, near an Indian reservation? Looking for answers, the detective and Vinnie set off into the woods, where hungry bears are by no means the most dangerous creatures they’ll have to face.

Despite its Deliverance-like moments, and an explosively violent conclusion that’s not sufficiently foreshadowed, Blood Is the Sky is really a gracefully composed study of character, as focused on Vinnie’s strengths and failings as Hamilton’s previous novel, North of Nowhere, was on the story of another series regular, bar owner Jackie Connery. Yet McKnight shines here, too, his self-effacing humour keeping readers amused, when they aren’t amazed—again—by the lengths to which this supposedly lonerish sleuth will go to help a friend in trouble. —J. Kingston Pierce,

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