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Ice Run    by Steve Hamilton Amazon.com order for
Ice Run
by Steve Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Spring is finally thawing out Paradise, Michigan and Alex McKnight couldn't be happier. Soon there'll be less snow to plow, giving him more free time to spend with new girlfriend, Natalie Reynaud. Working around their responsibilities (Natalie's also a cop), schedules, and Mother Nature, is harder then Alex anticipated. But he and Natalie finally manage a rendezvous at a quaint old hotel just across the border. They've barely checked in when they're confronted by an elderly man sporting a Homberg hat (which they later find outside their door). Inside is a cryptic note that makes reference to Natalie's dark past and the murder of her father when she was a child, a killing that was never solved. A few hours later the old man is found frozen to death in an alleyway.

Alex and Natalie are ruled out as suspects, but then things tumble into a negative spiral. Natalie all but dumps Alex, telling him she can't 'deal with this' right now. Alex is hurt but agrees to keep his distance. However, staying away from Natalie doesn't stop him from doing a bit of snooping of his own. With the aid of his three best friends - Jackie, Vinnie, and former PI partner, Leon Prudell - Alex starts asking around. His questions lead to a severe beating by the old man's relatives and numerous confrontations with his nemesis, police Chief Roy Maven. And they finally result in a wild chase across borders, and against the unforgiving elements, to stop a killer determined to put an end to an old family feud once and for all.

This is the sixth in Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight series. The series premise is familiar from countless other mysteries: cop succumbs to survivor guilt after watching his partner gunned down, and exiles himself to small out-of-the-way town where trouble always manage to find him. Despite the formulaic premise, Hamilton has created an intriguing, smart and often vulnerable character in Alex McKnight. His secondary characters are equally well realized. And the author has proved himself a master of setting and atmosphere -- the frigid winter landscape of Paradise comes alive with crisp, sharp and insightful descriptions.

Hamilton has won countless awards for this series, (including an Edgar for A Cold Day in Paradise) and it's little wonder that he's become a fast-rising star in crime fiction. Do yourself a favour and read Ice Run. If you enjoy the story as much as I did, you'll be making a mad dash for the bookstore to round up the entire Alex McKnight series.

Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Ice Run's first pages envelop hard winter weather in Paradise, Michigan. And the story never seems to leave the winter snow and ice. In fact, the snow and ice become almost characters in their own right in Steve Hamilton's sixth Alex McKnight novel.

McKnight is an ex-cop with a troubled background, who now rents out cabins to snowmobilers. Trying to get a relationship going with Natalie Reynaud a cop on recuperative leave - he books a romantic night in a small hotel. Events take over their plans. Events that lead to murder! Family relationships move this mystery along at a fast clip, suspense building with every page. The old adage that the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children seems appropriate here, as Alex and Natalie probe back through the years to find why an old man left them a Homburg hat outside their hotel room door and then disappeared to die in the snow and freezing temperature.

The author builds the plot with skill. I like the main players in this page-turner. They have faults, as do the rest of us, and are motivated by their emotions more than reason. Again, as many of us are. Enjoy this well-written novel and then hand it on for others to enjoy. You'll be thanked.

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