Steve Hamilton,
Ice Run
(St. Martin's Minotaur, 2003)

This is the sixth novel in the acclaimed Alex McKnight series. McKnight is an ex-cop turned private investigator. Nothing new there, you might think. He watched his partner die in cruel and violent circumstances, and that's had a big effect on his life. Still not that exceptional in this genre. But there is something exceptional in this series. There's snow everywhere. And it's usually 20 feet deep, at least. Other PI heroes drive nifty little sports cars or Columbo-style wrecks. There aren't that many who have a snow-plough at hand. The scenery and the weather have a character all their own in this book, and Steve Hamilton has brought a new meaning to the term "chiller."

Ice Run opens with Alex hooking up with an acquaintance from an earlier book in the series -- police officer Natalie Reynaud. He ploughs through the snow to see her on New Year's Eve. At the Ojibway Hotel in Sault Sainte Marie, Mich., they cement their relationship. An old man leaves a message for them, as well as an upturned hat filled with snow. Then he disappears into the storm.

We spend the rest of the book figuring out who the old man was, watching as Alex uncovers a web of family intrigue that has nothing to do with the McKnights. It's a compelling tale, with plenty of twists, buckets of atmosphere and an unexpected ending. The main characters are well-drawn and the supporting cast -- including Jackie, the Scottish owner of the Glasgow Inn, and Vinnie, Alex's Ojibway friend -- is easy to like.

Now that I've discovered the sixth book in the series I'm going out to hunt the first five down. And if that's not a vote of confidence I don't know what is.

- Rambles
written by Jean Lewis
published 18 September 2004

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