North of Nowhere: An Alex McKnight Novel
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Minotaur|
Steve Hamilton’s debut novel A Cold Day In Paradise was the first novel to capture mystery’s three most prestigious awards-the Edgar, the Shamus, and the Anthony awards for best first novel. Now North of Nowhere returns to the beautiful and dangerous landscapes of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where former Detroit cop Alex McKnight’s attempts to leave civilization behind only lead to disaster…
Lying facedown on the floor with a gun to the back of his head is where Alex McKnight finds himself after a game of cards turns into a professional heist at the home of local developer Win Vargas. When the dust settles, McKnight is one of police chief Roy Maven’s lead suspects. Worse, Vargas’ own sense of vigilante justice has targeted the former private eye as well, and the brash millionaire may be responsible for the sudden disappearance of Alex’s best friend, Jackie. Now, with officials pointed in the wrong direction and his closest allies either missing or in jail, Alex knows he is the only one who can uncover the truth. But McKnight can’t possibly know how dark this conspiracy truly is-or how close to guilt he actually stands…
That Steve Hamilton has won a following by writing private-eye novels about a guy who has no interest in being a PI is testament both to his storytelling talents and readers’ hunger for fresh approaches to this genre. North of Nowhere finds ex-Detroit cop Alex McKnight celebrating his 49th birthday by retreating to his cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he laments his personal and career failures. Eventually, though, McKnight is coaxed out with the prospect of a poker game, hosted by wealthy contractor Winston Vargas, only to have the game interrupted by armed men in masks, who empty Vargas’s safe and leave clues suggesting that Alex and his fellow players engineered the heist.
Now, McKnight really has reason to feel sorry for himself. But instead, he goes after the gunmen, along the way swapping sucker punches with Vargas, shaking down his former detective partner (who videotaped the thieves’ escape), and discovering that even his friends harbor secrets that could get them all killed.
This fourth McKnight outing (after 2001’s The Hunting Wind) is a fine showcase for Hamilton’s lithesome prose. The pace is brisk, the episodes often humorous, and the tale brims with an infectious reverence for its natural setting (“God help me, on a summer night when the sun is going down, it is the most beautiful place on earth”). If Hammett moved the detective story from the drawing room into the mean streets, Hamilton has proved that the north woods have their own potential for homicidal intrigue. —J. Kingston Pierce