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A Stolen Season: An Alex McKnight Novel    by Steve Hamilton order for
Stolen Season
by Steve Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Retired Detroit cop (and occasional private eye) Alex McKnight, and his 'third and last friend in the whole world', Leon Prudell, are spending an unseasonably frigid Fourth of July at a lakeside retreat along Lake Superior. The bay is boiling with mist and it seems unlikely that there'll be any fireworks this year. They're about ready to bid new friend Tyler goodnight when they spot a boat racing erratically toward some old bridge pylons. Knowing the craft's going too fast to avoid disaster, they await the inevitable screech of wood and metal. Leon alerts the Coast Guard and paramedics, while Tyler and Alex head out toward the quickly sinking wooden criss-craft, certain that its occupants are dead. Surprisingly, all three men survive with only minor injuries. Coast guard, paramedics and lucky survivors laud Alex, Leon and Tyler as heroes - and then everyone calls it a night.

Alex heads back to Paradise, content to spend his time maintaining his string of rental cabins, drinking Molson Canadian at the Glasgow Inn, and wondering what his girlfriend (Ontario Provincial Police officer Natalie Renaud) is doing at any given moment. Alex isn't crazy about the fact that she transferred to Toronto and is working undercover in a joint RCMP and OPP sting operation. But before he can fall too deeply into self pity, trouble follows Alex back to Paradise. One of the rescued boaters drops by the Inn to personally thank Alex. But there's something about Cap's words that strikes Alex as suspiciously insincere and it's not long before Cap is accusing Alex, Leon and Tyler of stealing a lock box. Furious over the man's accusations, Alex very calmly invites Cap to leave the Glasgow Inn and never show his face in Paradise again.

More complications arise as Alex sets out to do a little investigating of his own. With the help of his blood brother Vinnie, a dealer at the Bay Mills Casino, Alex finds out that Cap and his cronies have a nice scam going, running government financed prescription meds across the Canadian border. When Vinnie is ambushed and beaten for sticking his nose into Cap's business, Alex sets out to even the score and ruin their lucrative little business, unaware that his one-man war is on a fast and deadly collision course with Natalie's undercover assignment to nab a Canadian arms dealer.

It's no surprise that Steve Hamilton's debut Alex McKnight novel, A Cold Day in Paradise, received numerous accolades, including the Edgar and Shamus awards. Hamilton's sleek, gritty style and nicely paced first person narrative is vivid and gripping. Alex is an engaging, yet very imperfect hero, with whom readers identify immediately. His singular knack for attracting trouble - and then figuring his way out of it - is always engrossing. The northern Michigan climate is as much a trademark of the series as its flesh and blood characters - in this installment, Alex points out that 'summer forgot to arrive in Paradise'. Hamilton has a gift for personifying Mother Nature in all her wrath or glory, sharing with readers 'the desolate, heartbreaking beauty of this goddamned place. This home of mine.' If you haven't had the pleasure of reading Steve Hamilton, then do yourself a favour - track down the entire Alex McKnight series and savor each one until you turn the last page of A Stolen Season - you'll be glad you did.

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