Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton

Murder mystery set in Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA. An entertaining read with plenty of twists and turns.

This is the eighth Alex McKnight novel. Alex, is an ex-cop now making a living renting cabins in the small town of Paradise in Michigan’s isolated Upper Peninsula, who becomes a reluctant private detective. The story starts with a sinister setting of a young college student found hanging from a tree overlooking Misery Bay, Lake Superior. There is no evidence of foul play, and nothing to suggest it’s anything other than a tragic suicide. The boy’s father, Raz, (a US Marshall) has one question: why?

Police Chief Maven – a no-nonsense, hard-bitten cop, who hasn’t seen eye to eye with McKnight in the past – now seeks McKnight’s assistance to bring about closure for his ex-partner, Raz. Just interview a few of the student’s friends is the start of a long and winding trail for McKnight. He doesn’t want to, but reluctantly agrees. He winds up driving all over Michigan, and sometimes into Canada, with Maven tagging along some of the time. The love interest is provided by FBI agent, Janet Long, whose FBI partner is a stereotype asshole.

My initial impressions: the writing is crisp, dialogue is genuine, and great dry humour abounds – plus the story flows at a good pace. The confrontation with the killer is masterful; full of drama and suspense.

Nit picks: snow is constantly falling, it’s always freezing, and – unless you hail from that part of the world – the myriad of towns and lakes visited can be bewildering. Steve Hamilton has won several crime awards, and he knows how to tell a good story – I was impressed with how he manufactured yet one more lead from what appeared to be a (writing) dead-end.

Bottom line: Five stars for entertainment, ingenuity and dry humour. It certainly is no cure for insomnia – you’ll be burning the midnight oil. If you’re looking for an enjoyable read to while away the hours, this one’s for you.

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