Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Cold Day in Paradise

Steve Hamilton
A Cold Day in Paradise

Minotaur Books, 2012 (reissue)

After a psychopath killed Alex McKnight’s partner and nearly killed McKnight himself, Detroit cop takes an early retirement. Doctors removed two bullets from the body of McKnight, and the third one stayed there, very close to his heart. After eight years in the service McKnight receives disability payment and goes to live in a small town in Michigan called Paradise, where Alex’s father left some forest cabins. McKnight spends six years in Paradise, when a local lawyer asks Alex to work for him as a private investigator. Uttley, the lawyer, fires a previous PI because he was incompetent and almost makes Alex to get private investigator’s license. McKnight does not need the money, and he takes the job, because he thinks that he knows how to approach people. Soon someone kills the bookie, through which Edwin Fulton, a local rich man and gambler, placed his bets, and in the middle of the night Fulton finds the body of a bookmaker, calls Alex, asking him for help. After the first dead bookmaker follows the second, and McKnight starts getting ominous notes and calls from Rose, the same psychopath who killed McKnight’s partner.

The longer, the story is the more confusing, moving away from the mystery and practically flowing into horror territory. The fact is that Rose was caught six months after the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in a high-security prison. And he could not escape from prison. But one who threatens McKnight knows what only Rose could know. Naturally, not only the hero is frightened, who thought that the past will remain the past, but the reader too, who already suspects that some magic will involve.

McKnight is a private investigator only conditionally: he's just a former cop, with his fears, and he doesn’t have special insight. Most of the book, he acts like a hunted animal, a little bit more, and the one who plays with him will drive Alex crazy.

McKnight with his knight name and the real knight have in common only metal: the knight's armor, as the hero of the book has a bullet next to his heart. The rest of Alex is far from the hero of the Middle Ages: he slept with his best friend’s wife, been a cop, but hadn’t been promoted to detective, he’s not particularly sharp on the mind and language, and his code of honor is quite specific. Far more likely that McKnight is short for “nightmare”: the whole protagonist’s life became nightmare.

A Cold Day in Paradise is a chilling novel, the grotesque in some way, but no frills there. In here, for example, the bartenders do not remember all the customers for the last three years:

«THE BARTENDER WAS no help. I asked him if he had been there that past Monday. It took him a full minute to figure that one out, so I didn't think he'd be able to remember if there were any suspicious characters there that night. So I just paid the man and headed down to Uttley's office ».

This book is, in general, not a bullet to the heart, but very close.

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