Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: "Die a Stranger" by Steve Hamilton

While reading Steve Hamilton's ninth mystery featuring Michigan ex-cop Alex McKnight, all I kept thinking was, "Why isn't Steve Hamilton more of a household name?" Having read every one of his books, I always walk away immensely satisfied by the depth of his characters, the complexity with which he imbues every plotline, and the emotions he touches on. That's a rare feat.

Alex McKnight lives in the small Upper Peninsula town of Paradise. Constantly living with the reminder of being shot as a policeman while his partner was killed (Alex has a bullet lodged just near his heart), he is a fiercely loyal friend and unsuccessful former private investigator who can't seem to stay out of trouble, or trouble just seems to find him.

Vinnie LeBlanc is one of Alex's closest friends. Maybe even his best friend. The two have gotten into some scrapes before, but both have saved each other from danger in the past. When Vinnie mysteriously disappears the night after his mother dies, Alex knows this isn't just grief-related sadness or the need to get away; he knows Vinnie is in trouble. And despite the entreaties of law enforcement and the distrust of Vinnie's own family and reservation numbers, Alex is determined to find Vinnie and help him.

With the help of someone from Vinnie's past, Alex discovers his disappearance is tied to an incident at an isolated airport that left five people dead. But the dangers they uncover—and the ramifications of their actions—leave Alex, Vinnie, and everyone they know in harm's way, and there aren't many solutions left.

What I loved about this book, as I do all of Steve Hamilton's books, is the perfect balance between action, suspense, and introspection. It's not all car chases, gunplay and fistfights, nor is it all brooding and reflection. Alex McKnight is a fantastic character I've really come to enjoy over the years, and I feel that way about the other recurring characters in this series—Vinnie, Jackie, even Chief Maven. I really think the series would make an excellent television show, because I'd want to spend more time with it than simply seeing a movie every now and again.

If you like this genre, pick up a Steve Hamilton book. Any one in the series would do, as would his two other stand-alone novels. And maybe you'll help me in my quest to make him the household name he deserves to be.

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