It may be one of the worst winters in recent memory in Paradise, Michigan, but Alex McKnight is looking forward to spending some quality time with his new girlfriend, Natalie Reynaud, an officer from the Ontario Provincial Police. But a chance encounter with a mysterious old man, Simon Grant, turns chilling when he seems to know a lot about Natalie and her family.
When Natalie and Alex return to their room later that evening, they discover the same hat the old man was wearing lying outside their room filled with ice and snow and containing a cryptic note: I know who you are! A day later, Simon Grant is found frozen to death in a snowdrift.
Natalie and Alex are stunned. The mystery is just too much of a coincidence for Alex to ignore. His trail leads him to a blood feud buried decades ago in Natalie's family's past-an event that can still drive men to kill each other...
This gripping, roller-coaster read, the sixth in Hamilton's Alex McKnight series, commences in the forlorn burg of Paradise, Mich., where ex-cop Alex ekes out a living renting cabins to snowmobilers from "down below." Alex's conspicuous consumption of salads and newly dyed hairdo alert his pub owner/protector that he's smitten with someone. But love isn't enough to shield Alex and Constable Natalie Reynaud, on leave from the Ontario Provincial Police, from the violent fallout of a Reynaud family secret. A merciless snowstorm threatens Alex's plans for a rendezvous with the traumatized Natalie, who witnessed the killing of her partner in Blood Is the Sky (2003), but they meet halfway at a charming hotel on the Canadian border. A cryptic note in an old Homburg hat left outside their room arouses Alex's curiosity. McKnight, with the aid of his former PI partner Leon Prudell, plumbs local Prohibition history to find the seed of enmity between two destructively intertwined clans. His efforts earn him a brutal beating, an incomprehensible breach with Natalie and the discovery of more than one untimely death. Hamilton expertly delivers sharply etched characters, a vivid setting and a thoroughly enjoyable hero, leaving us breathless, perched at the edge of our seats for this chilly ride. FYI: Hamilton has won Edgar, Anthony and Shamus awards.
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May 30, 2004
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Excerpt from Ice Run by Steve Hamilton
In a land of hard winters, the hardest of all is the winter that fills you with false hope. It's the kind of winter that starts out easy. You get the white Christmas, but it's a light snow, six inches tops, the stuff that makes everything look like a postcard. The sun comes out during the day. You can take your coat off if you're working hard enough. The nights are quiet. The stars shine between the silver clouds. You celebrate New Year's. You make resolutions. It snows again and you run the plow. You shovel. You chop wood. You sit inside at night by the fire. You say to yourself, this ain't so bad. A little cold weather is good for a man. It makes you feel alive.
That's what I was thinking. I admit it. Although maybe I had other reasons to believe this winter would be easy. Maybe this winter I could be forgiven for letting my guard down. One good look at the calendar would have put my head back on straight. Spring doesn't come until May, Alex. Which meant-what, winter had ten rounds left in a fifteen-round fight? That was plenty of time. That was all the time in the world.
When the storm finally hit, I was down the road at the Glasgow Inn. Jackie had the fire going and had just made a big pot of his famous beef stew. He had the cold Molsons, bought at the Beer Store across the bridge and stored just for me in his cooler, for the simple reason that American beer cannot compare to beer bottled and sold in Canada. That and a Red Wings game on the television over the bar were all I needed. On that night, anyway. I had plans for the next day. I had big plans. But for now I was happy just to be with Jackie, and to do everything I could to slowly drive him insane.
"Alex, you're gonna tell me what's going on," he said for the third time. He was an old Scot, God love him, with the slightest hint of a burr in his speech. Born in Glasgow sixty-odd years ago, the son of a tugboat captain, he came to Michigan when he was a teenager. He had been here ever since, eventually opening up the Glasgow Inn. It looked a lot more like a Scottish pub than an American bar, which meant you could spend the whole evening there without getting depressed or drunk or both.
0"Don't know what you're talking about," I said.
"Like hell you don't. You've been bouncing in here, saying hello and how are you. Smiling and laughing."
"I'm happy to see you," I said. "Is that so bad?"
"Since when are you happy about anything?" he said. He gave me that
Popeye squint of his. "It's January, for God's sake."
"Almost February," I said. "How many inches have we had?"
"Don't even say that, Alex. You'll jinx it. You know a storm's coming."
"I had another cancellation today. There's not enough snow to ride on." This time of year, snowmobiling was the biggest business in Paradise, Michigan. Hell, it was the only business. Every rental cabin in town, and every motel room, was booked months in advance. On most January nights, Jackie's place would be crawling with men from downstate, most of them with their big puffy snowsuits zipped down to the waist.
And that sound. The whine of the engines, coming from every direction. It always drove me crazy. But this night was silent.
"Tonight," he said. "We'll get buried. You watch."
I shrugged and looked up at the hockey game. "Bring it on."
"And what's with the salad, anyway?"
"Lettuce and vegetables, Alex. That salad."
"What are you talking about?"
"For dinner. You had a salad."
"I had the stew, Jackie. Since when can I pass that up?"
"You had a little bowl of stew and a big salad."
"You don't eat salads for dinner. I've never seen you eat a salad in fifteen years."
"So I felt like a salad, Jackie. What are you getting at?"
"You're not drinking as much beer, either. Try to deny it."
I held up my hands. "Guilty. You busted me."
"You're working out, too. I can tell."
"You've been bugging me for years to take better care of myself," I said. So now maybe I am. Is there something wrong with that?"
"You finally decided to listen to me? That's what you're telling me?"