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Misery Bay: An Alex McKnight Novel (Alex McKnight Novels) Paperback – June 5, 2012
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ALEX MCKNIGHT IS BACK in the long-awaited return of one of crime fiction's most critically acclaimed series.
On a frozen January night, a young man loops one end of a long rope over the branch of a tree. The other end he ties around his neck. A snowmobiler will find him thirty-six hours later, his lifeless eyes staring out at the endless cold water of Lake Superior. It happens in a lonely corner of the Upper Peninsula, in a place they call Misery Bay.
Alex McKnight does not know this young man, and he won’t even hear about the suicide until another cold night, two months later and 250 miles away, when the door to the Glasgow Inn opens and the last person Alex would ever expect to see comes walking in to ask for his help.
What seems like a simple quest to find a few answers will turn into a nightmare of sudden violence and bloody revenge, and a race against time to catch a ruthless killer. McKnight knows all about evil, of course, having faced down a madman who killed his partner and left a bullet next to his heart. Mobsters, drug dealers, hit men—he’s seen them all, and they’ve taken away almost everything he’s ever loved. But none of them could have ever prepared him for the darkness he’s about to face.
Koryta: Misery Bay opens with relentless good cheer--a frigid night, a corpse dangling from a tree. And, back for the first time in a few years, Alex McKnight. Tell us a little about how it felt to be back with him from the writer's perspective.
Hamilton: It was great to be back, for the simple reason that it had been so long. Almost five years between books! I hadn’t planned on being away from the series for so long, but I sorta ended up getting lost at sea there for a while. A standalone that just about kills you will do that.
Koryta: You opened your career with seven straight Alex McKnight novels, and then followed with two standalones, including last year's The Lock Artist, which just won the Edgar for best novel. Did you always know you were going to return to Alex, or was there a time when you thought you were done?
Hamilton: I knew that, after A Stolen Season, the last McKnight book, I really needed to take a break. And that Alex needed a break, too--as strange as that may sound to say about a fictional character. I just couldn’t bring myself to drag him out of his cabin, into some new sort of trouble again. Does that make any sense?
Koryta: Absolutely! I know you don't write from an outline. What's something from Misery Bay that stands out as a favorite unanticipated development?
Hamilton: I guess that would have to be the relationship that develops between Alex and his old nemesis, Chief Roy Maven. I knew they’d have to unlikely allies in this book, but actually having them together for so long, I was surprised to see how well that worked. I wouldn’t call them good friends or anything at this point, but they definitely had to come to a new understanding about each other.
Koryta: We both got our publishing start through the St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest. So tell me: who's your all-time favorite fictional detective, and who is a newer discovery that you're excited about?
Hamilton: All-time favorite fictional detective? Still has to be Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, I think. As far as a newer discovery... If you’re talking about a new private eye, I honestly don’t know of one right now. The genre has been down a little bit lately, and I haven’t read anything new and great for while. (Maybe this year’s contest winner? There’s always hope!)
Koryta: As I look over my shoulder at the Steve Hamilton section in my bookshelf, I can't help but notice some repeated themes in the titles: winter, north, ice, cold, wind. And, oh yeah, misery. Be honest: are you really that inspired by cold weather, or is this evidence that you desperately want to move to the tropics?
Hamilton: To me, when I think about “hardboiled” or “noir,” I think about cold. When just going outside to your car is an act of courage, that has to say something about you already, right? I know that Raymond Chandler’s idea of hardboiled was a sun-baked street in Los Angeles, but for me there’s just something about a frozen lake and a cold wind that will turn you inside-out.
Koryta: I’m in sun-drenched Los Angeles right now and it’s tough to argue that point. This is your 10th novel. It has been 13 years since your Edgar-winning debut, A Cold Day in Paradise. What has changed in your perspective and approach to writing in that time and throughout those books?
Hamilton: Well, it doesn’t get any easier. Or at least it shouldn’t, or else you’re doing it wrong. And I’m STILL waiting for a great idea for a book to come floating by and land on my shoulder like a some kind of beautiful butterfly. These authors who have all these great ideas that just come to them out of nowhere, I want to slap them. If I have one sorta half-baked idea that might get me through one chapter, I’m lucky.
Koryta: What's next--another Alex or another standalone? Give us a taste.
Hamilton: The publisher really likes this return to Alex thing, so they want some more of that. More importantly, I’m finding it’s pretty great to be back in Paradise. So for the next two books, at least, it’s Alex McKnight all the way! I know I’ll take breaks again and try new things, but it’s nice to know I can always to come back to see what he’s up to next.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
The story starts with an eerie preface that alludes to the upcoming events and then immediately a well done background of the characters and past events is done by Hamilton - and it was done just right - so as not to leave out readers that had not been fortunate enough to have found this series years ago. In the previous five stories, Hamilton takes one of the main characters and places them in danger with Alex on the trail. In this one, Chief Maven and McKnight, Maven's arch enemy in the Paradise area, are placed together as they attempt to unravel the madman with which they are entangled.
The writing is crisp, the dialogue is genuine and humor dry and without forced effort. The story is complex and moves at a good pace. The rhythm is just right between the characters and the storyline. There is very little not to like in this novel. If I had to pick something it would be the fact that Alex could remain ahead of the FBI on the trial of the bad guys. However, that said, the story never felt forced or fake.
There is plenty to like in this installment, and it can play very well without going back into the series. There are several lines in the story about past incidents and they will make you want to start at the beginning of this series. I would rate this as the best of the six books by Hamilton that I have read. Definitely one for the pile of reading material, especially if this is your genre.
To his surprise, the chief of police with whom he's almost always at odds, asks him as a favor to help a friend. The investigation of the suicide of the friend's son leads him to discover other similar deaths. The police chief and McKnight form an uneasy alliance to link the deaths and to try to prevent more killings in a fast-paced, absorbing tale.
Fans of Hamilton's books will find the Paradise regulars in residence as well as the Scottish pub where McKnight socializes and drinks his beer brought in from Canada for him by the owner. This is a book that those new to the series will enjoy and perhaps lead them back to the beginning to read the others. Warning: Best read in the summer months if the reader is sensitive to snow and ice!
The Feds, it seems, don't quite grasp this, and so Alex and Maven do sleuthing on their own, looking for evil. And this is where the book feels forced. First, that the Feds don't see what's happening. Second, the whole "evil" emphasis seems tacked on to the book. We are told over and over how evil the killer is. But being told becomes boring. And, in fact, we don't need to be told over and over. We can see for ourselves the horrible damage the fake suicides cause. Third, I don't know about you, but I prefer mysteries in which the killer is actually present as a character here and there throughout the novel. In this case, the killer is present only fleetingly, and I find that dissatisfying. And four, the single page italicized "thoughts" of the killer scattered throughout the book just don't work. They are forced, put there to maybe make us see that the killer is crazy. They simply aren't interesting.
What is interesting are the main characters and the setting. If you're a character- and setting-driven reader, you'll love this book. If you're a plot-driven reader, you might become impatient.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Riveting. Tale kept my interest because of all the unexpected twists and turns. It broke the mold of the typical mystery story line.Published 27 days ago by William H. Popp
Great book. This is a tight story with a surprise ending. Fast read.Published 1 month ago by AvidReader1967
This series is a fun read for me as I am a yooper too, and very familiar with the setting of the stories. This one is good and keeps moving right along. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Carol P.
This book and all the others from Steve Hamilton hold special meaning because he writes about places just down the road from me... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Eelman
Sheriff Roy Maven has been riding private investigator Alex McKnight since he took office. Now, he needs his help. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Andrew Kuligowski