MISERY BAY by Steve Hamilton

Book Quote:

“He hanged himself. From a tree. There was some alcohol in his system, I guess, but… I mean, he went out on his own and he drove down by the lake and he hanged himself.”
“Did he leave a note?”
“No note. There usually isn’t.”
“I know, but…”
But nothing I thought. The man was right. Despite everything you see in movies, no matter how somebody kills himself, they almost never leave a note.

Book Review:

Review by Chuck Barksdale  (JUL 3, 2011)

After a wait of 5 years and 2 non-series books, including last year’s Edgar award winning The Lock Artist, Steve Hamilton has brought back Alex McKnight in Misery Bay, the eighth book in this excellent series. While relaxing at the Glasgow Inn in Paradise, Michigan with the owner Jackie Connery and his friend Vinnie “Red Sky” LeBlanc, Alex’s evening is interrupted by a man he didn’t expect to ever see there, Chief Roy Maven, who surprisingly asks for Alex’s help. Chief Maven, the head of the nearby Sault Ste. Marie police force, wants Alex to help his old state trooper partner, Charles “Raz” Razniewski, determine why his son Charlie would hang himself in a remote part of Misery Bay, Lake Superior on the Upper Peninsula part of Michigan.

Alex reluctantly agrees to help by visiting Michigan Tech, the college where Charlie was a senior majoring in forestry, a recent change from the major his father wanted him to study, criminal justice. Alex meets Charlie’s roommates and other friends and really doesn’t find much to help understand the suicide. Although Charlie and his father had some words about the switch in major, Alex doesn’t really find anything significant. However, when Alex returns to Chief Maven’s house to let Raz know about his conversations, he finds Raz on the floor with his throat cut open and dead in his own blood

This leads to the visit to northern Michigan of two FBI agents, the annoying and distrusting Agent Fleury and the somewhat friendlier Agent Janet Long. Neither wants Alex or Chief Maven’s help and encourage them to stay out of their way. Of course, that’s the wrong thing to say to Alex or Chief Maven, who despite their differences, are both passionate in their dedication to find Raz’ killer. Working together and separately, they are more successful than the FBI in finding the clues that may uncover the murderer of Raz and possibly other related murders and possibly a link to the Chief’s past. Hamilton does a very good job in bringing Alex and the Chief together, providing a little more depth into the struggles that both men face with their past and how it influences their current and future relationships with their family and friends.

Overall, this is an excellent book and I can only hope the start of more in this series. Although I’d certainly recommend starting at the beginning of this series, Steve Hamilton does do a good job in providing enough back story about each of the main characters so that this book could be read without having read the prior books. However, really this background serves more as a reminder to the faithful readers and Hamilton does hold back on the much of the details of the major impact on Alex’s life that occurred in A Stolen Season.

I really enjoyed how Hamilton presented the main story of this book and the back story of learning more about Chief Maven and the changing relationship between him and Alex. However, the scenes at the Glasgow Inn and those between Alex and Vinnie were minimal in this book and that was a little disappointing after all this time waiting for the new book in the series. I certainly felt as if Alex (and Steve Hamilton) were just not ready to deal completely with the hardships from the prior book, although you could feel the pain that Alex still has. Although five years has occurred between books, that is not the case between the two books as the events in A Stolen Season appear much more recent.

To me, Steve Hamilton is one of the best authors at developing characters especially in the use of dialog in developing his characters, especially with the occasional humor. He also does a really great job in making the reader see and feel the Upper Peninsula part of Michigan where most people have not visited. I If I ever went to Paradise, Michigan, I would expect it to be cold (and snowy even in April) and that Jackie would be behind the bar at the Glasgow Inn. I’d ask him for one of his special supply of Canadian Moulson (which he probably wouldn’t give me). If Alex wasn’t there, I’d try to find the five cabins his father made. Also, although many readers I’m sure have grown up near American Indians, many of us have not, and reading about them in this series is also educational as I trust Hamilton has presented these people and their relationships correctly. The primary first person presentation from the mind and voice of Alex McKnight also helps better understand him and his relationships with his friends and enemies. Overall,  Steve Hamilton is one of the best people writing today and I wish he he’d decide to quick his day job at IBM to write full time.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 44 readers
PUBLISHER: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (June 7, 2011)
REVIEWER: Chuck Barksdale
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Steve Hamiltion
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of: 

Night Work

And another set in Northern Michigan:

Dead of Winter by P.J. Parrish


Alex McNight series:


July 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Sleuths Series, US Midwest, y Award Winning Author

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