One of the most promising secondary figures in Steve Hamilton's series about reluctant northern Michigan PI Alex McKnight has always been his teetotaling Ojibwa Indian pal, Vinnie LeBlanc. But Vinnie remained mostly to himself through the first four McKnight adventures. Blood Is the Sky finally lets him loose, and it's both a pleasure and painful to see what results.
Vinnie's younger, ex-con brother, Tom, has disappeared. In violation of his parole, Tom had guided a small contingent of moose hunters into the pacific forests of Ontario, but none of them had returned home on schedule. To assuage Vinnie's worries, McKnight agrees to drive with him into Canada and look for the men. No luck; the owners of a money-losing lakeside lodge where those sportsmen had stayed say they departed days ago. So where did they go? Who were the two other, unidentified guys who came looking for them in advance of McKnight and his friend? And why was the hunters' vehicle abandoned, with their wallets inside, near an Indian reservation? Looking for answers, the detective and Vinnie set off into the woods, where hungry bears are by no means the most dangerous creatures they'll have to face.
Despite its Deliverance-like moments, and an explosively violent conclusion that's not sufficiently foreshadowed, Blood Is the Sky is really a gracefully composed study of character, as focused on Vinnie's strengths and failings as Hamilton's previous novel, North of Nowhere, was on the backstory of another series regular, bar owner Jackie Connery. Yet McKnight shines here, too, his self-effacing humor keeping readers amused, when they aren't amazed--again--by the lengths to which this supposedly lonerish sleuth will go to help a friend in trouble. --J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Edgar winner Hamilton's engrossing novel of revenge, the fifth in his Alex McKnight series (after 2002's North of Nowhere), alternates between well-paced action fraught with danger and Alex's slow, meticulous inquiries. A former Detroit cop sidelined by a bullet, Alex is living quietly in Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula when he agrees to help an Ojibway friend, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc. Vinnie's searching for his black sheep brother, Tom, who hasn't returned from a job guiding a hunting party of wealthy Detroit men in the Canadian wilderness. The staff of an isolated lodge on an island-dotted lake arouses Alex and Vinnie's suspicions with their unsatisfactory explanations about the hunting party's trip. Then the anxious wives report their husbands are missing to the Ontario Provincial Police, leading Alex and Vinnie deeper into an investigation that eventually points to a crime in Detroit in 1985. The fate of Tom's hunting party becomes apparent early on, as the reader gets drawn into a complex series of inexplicable, and highly improbable, coincidences. Nonetheless, Hamilton develops his plot carefully. A fine writer, he excels at describing the lonely locale as well as depicting such memorable characters as tough-minded cop Natalie Reynaud and Maskwa, a 70-year-old Cree still flying his clapped-out plane around the Canadian skies.
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