Posted by: Schuyler R. Thorpe | June 14, 2011

Review: Alex McKnight Returns In `Misery Bay’

“Misery Bay” (Minotaur Books), by Steve Hamilton: Alex McKnight is having a beer at his favorite Northern Michigan haunt when his nemesis, chief Roy Maven of the Sault Ste. Marie police, pops in. McKnight figures they’re finally going to have that fistfight. Instead, Maven has come seeking a favor.

A college boy has been found hanging from a tree at Misery Bay, a remote spot on the shore of ice-choked Lake Superior. The boy’s father, a federal marshal, is Maven’s friend; they rode together years ago when they were both state troopers. The father needs to know why his son killed himself, Maven says, and McKnight, a former Detroit cop and part-time private detective, is the right man for the job.

Reluctantly, McKnight accepts, but when the boy’s father is found with his throat slashed, the case takes an immediate turn.

Two FBI agents show up to investigate the murder of the federal peace officer. They warn McKnight and Maven to butt out. Jurisdictional disputes among the feds and the state and local police grow heated.

And then more bodies of former state police and their children start turning up. The FBI agents don’t think the killings are related. McKnight and Maven disagree. Together, the former enemies defy the FBI and set out to put things right.

“Misery Bay” is the eighth novel in Hamilton’s McKnight series, but the first since “A Stolen Season” (2006).

In the intervening years, Hamilton has produced a couple of fine stand-alone crime novels including “The Lock Artist,” which won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for best novel of 2010.

The new tale is a triumphant return for McKnight. “Misery Bay” is as good as the previous ones in this critically acclaimed series. The plot is as suspenseful as they come, with lots of unpredictable twists and turns. The characters, especially Maven and FBI agent Janet Long, are exceptionally well drawn. And the story plays out against a vividly portrayed background of April on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where frigid winds howl off Lake Superior, the snow never seems to stop falling, and the promise of spring is forever broken.

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