Alex McKnight is an ex-cop out of Detroit who retired after a gun battle left a bullet next to his heart and his partner dead. He relocated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula near the small town of Paradise, close to the Lake Superior shoreline and across Whitefish Bay from Sault Ste. Marie. By day he runs a hunting camp left to him by his father. On most nights he can be found at the Glasgow Inn, his second home. Mostly satisfied with his life, McKnight tries his hand at private investigation work to fill in his time and bring in a little extra income.
One evening he walked into the bar only to be accosted by a private eye who worked for Lane Uttley, a local lawyer, accusing McKnight of stealing his business. Hours later McKnight was at a motel staring at a bloody scene that brought back bitter memories of Detroit. Reluctantly McKnight agreed to help Uttley prove the innocence of millionaire Edwin Fulton, a close acquaintance who was accused of killing the bookie.
Edwin’s demanding mother hires McKnight to protect her family placing Alex in an awkward position because of his past with Edwin’s wife. If that weren’t enough, Alex begins receiving letters and phone calls that could only be from the man who shot him. When a second bookie is killed and Edwin disappears, evidence seems to indicate the guilty party is that same the man. But how could that be when he has been, and still is, in prison. Who is the copycat murderer?
Add to the mix Roy Maven, Sault Ste. Marie’s hardened no-nonsense chief of police, and Alex has his hands full trying to solve the case while keeping his own self alive.
A Cold Day in Paradise was written by IBM employee Steve Hamilton who has created a deeply layered and complex mystery thriller his first time out. The writing is so strong that Hamilton won two of the most prestigious honors in the literary field – the Edgar and Shamus awards – unprecedented for a first time author.
Hamilton deftly uses the Upper Peninsula scenery and climate as a back drop bringing depth to the tense frustration and anger that builds as a result of the fear permeating people who wonder if they might be the next victim.
On a personal note, my mother was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We know the area well, and I would like nothing more than to be able to visit Paradise once again.
Hamilton so ably draws his characters it seems they could step off the pages into real life. If we visited the Soo we might very well run into Sheriff Maven, or if we stopped in at the Glasgow Inn, we might find Alex playing poker with the guys or having a quiet drink while sitting in a comfortable chair as he stares into the fireplace - that’s how real his characters appear.
This first novel leads the way to a stellar series that now includes eight books as of this writing. If you are interested in a top-notch suspense story, you can do no wrong by picking up one of the books in the Alex McKnight series. Start with this one, A Cold Day in Paradise, as each novel continues to build its characters from one to the next.
After reading my first Steve Hamilton novel, Misery Bay – reviewed on this site – I purchased A Cold Day in Paradise so that I could start through the series. If you are interested in picking up a copy of any of Hamilton’s books, they are available at Amazon.com.