Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Book Review: Die a Stranger by Steve Hamilton

        "Die a Stranger" by multiple Edgar award-winning author Steve Hamilton (Minotaur, $25.99) is the ninth in his best selling series starring Alex McKnight.

        Set in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, the ex-cop and sometimes private investigator gets in more trouble when he investigates the disappearance of Vinnie LeBlanc, his best friend.

        Vinnie, a neighbor who's helped in other cases, is an Ojibwa Indian tribal member who lives away from the local reservation.

        He's a longtime blackjack dealer at the Bay Mills Casino whose mother has just died.  After the funeral, Vinnie disappears; Alex knows his friend's habits and is understandably worried.

        Five bodies are discovered at a small deserted airstrip not far from the village of Paradise, where Alex and Vinnie live.

        In a drug deal gone very bad, suddenly there's lots of interest by a variety of authorities.  Vinnie's cousin Buck is also missing and Alex feels that both men may have been somehow involved.

        Lou, Vinnie's long-estranged father, who was recently released from prison, has returned, but is unwelcome at the reservation.   He joins Alex in an uneasy partnership to track down Vinnie and Buck.

        The case gets considerably more complicated; they drive around the Upper Peninsula and other parts of the state seeking information and answers.

        Their discoveries lead to more challenges and a rising body count. There's an intriguing assortment of criminals involved.  Hamilton does an excellent job creating strong, believable characters that are frequently put in violent, deadly situations.

        Deftly structuring his novel, the author slowly increases the tension while providing useful background information and offering societal insights into life on the reservation.

        Hamilton's carefully crafted 2011 book starring Alex McKnight, "Misery Bay", was released earlier this month in paperback.

        "Die a Stranger" is scheduled for release on Tuesday.  While it's enjoyable as a dark, stand-alone novel, this is really an excellent series for serious die-hard mystery lovers.

        Hamilton, a graduate of University of Michigan, won an Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 1998 for "A Cold Day in Paradise" (the first book in the series).  He won his second Edgar for 2010's "The Lock Artist".

Steve Hamilton will be discussing his writings 
and signing books on Saturday at 7:00 PM at 
Schuler Books and Music, Meridian Mall, Okemos.
        Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, 
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the 
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, June 30, 2012.

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