Doing their best to ensure the future of the genre, St. Martin's Press and the Private Eye Writers of America give out an award every year for the Best First Private Eye Novel. The 1997 winner was this splendidly evocative work by IBM employee Steve Hamilton, which takes just about every cliché in the field and turns it inside out. Yes, Alex McKnight was an athlete in his youth--but a minor league baseball player, not a top pro forced out by injury. And yes, he was a cop in Detroit before he moved up to the town of Paradise on the shores of Lake Superior--but even this overused genre icon is made believable by the details of a particularly bloody shootout. In Paradise, Alex runs a hunting camp built by his late father and only drifts into private investigations because of two friends, a persuasive lawyer and a local millionaire with a gambling problem who needs his help. When two bookmakers are murdered and the millionaire disappears, all the signs point to the psychopath who killed McKnight's partner and left a slug near Alex's heart 14 years before. The only problem is that this man has definitely, positively been in prison ever since. You might figure out the plot twists a page or two before McKnight does, but don't bet the farm on it. And the deep layer of details that Hamilton provides about life in this bleak part of the world add to the book's many pleasures.|
Source: Dick Adler, Amazon.com.