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Misery Bay (Alex McKnight Series #8)

Misery Bay (Alex McKnight Series #8)

4.3 32
by Steve Hamilton

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On a frozen January night, a young man loops one end of a long rope over the branch of a tree. The other end he ties around his neck. A snowmobiler will find him thirty-six hours later, his lifeless eyes staring out at the endless cold water of Lake Superior. It happens in a lonely corner of the Upper Peninsula, in a place they call Misery Bay.

Alex McKnight does


On a frozen January night, a young man loops one end of a long rope over the branch of a tree. The other end he ties around his neck. A snowmobiler will find him thirty-six hours later, his lifeless eyes staring out at the endless cold water of Lake Superior. It happens in a lonely corner of the Upper Peninsula, in a place they call Misery Bay.

Alex McKnight does not know this young man, and he won’t even hear about the suicide until another cold night, two months later and 250 miles away, when the door to the Glasgow Inn opens and the last person Alex would ever expect to see comes walking in to ask for his help.

What seems like a simple quest to find a few answers will turn into a nightmare of sudden violence and bloody revenge and a race against time to catch a ruthless killer. McKnight knows all about evil, of course, having faced down a madman who killed his partner and left a bullet next to his heart. Mobsters, drug dealers, hit men - he’s seen them all, and they’ve taken away almost everything he’s ever loved. But none of them could have prepared him for the darkness he’s about to face.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Hamilton's superb eighth suspense novel featuring PI Alex McKnight (after A Stolen Season), McKnight looks into the murders of three young people, all made to look like suicides. McKnight, a retired Detroit cop who lives quietly in rural Paradise, Mich., receives an unexpected visit from Sault Ste. Marie police chief Roy Maven, his professional nemesis. Maven thinks McKnight can help a friend, U.S. marshal Charles "Raz" Razniewski, the father of the first "suicide" victim, a college student found hanging from a tree near Misery Bay one cold winter night. When Raz turns up murdered, McKnight and Maven partner to solve the multiple crimes. After the murders of the fathers of the other victims, FBI agent Janet Long joins the case. The stark frozen landscape of Lake Superior is beautifully drawn as are the characters of McKnight and Maven, who develop an unlikely bond. Assured prose, a thrilling plot, and a surprising, satisfying conclusion make this a winner. Author tour. (June)
Publishers Weekly - Audio
In Hamilton's latest thriller in the popular Alex McKnight series, when a young man apparently commits suicide in Misery Bay, police chief Roy Maven convinces McKnight to set aside their differences to investigate. Maven hopes the private eye will convince the dead man's bereaved father that foul play wasn't involved. But when a second murder is committed (this time in the chief's home), McKnight and Maven are forced to work together to stay alive. Dan John Miller provides winning narration in this audio edition. His rendition of McKnight is properly thoughtful, annoyed, sarcastic, and understanding. Miller's version of Maven is gruff, loud, and heavily accented, while the rest of the cast—from the Irish owner of McKnight's favorite tavern to the creepy, demented killer—is provided with equally appropriate voices. Fans of the series will definitely be entertained. A Minotaur hardcover. (June)
From the Publisher

“I'm often asked to recommend a detective series readers might have missed. This is it.” —Harlan Coben

Misery Bay showcases Hamilton's dark vision and his talents as a sturdy plotter. ... Hamilton's view of the harsh, bleak landscape of winter in Michigan's Upper Peninsula will have readers grabbing their coats and gloves as the frigid air seems to seep through the pages. Misery Bay is like a visit with an old friend with whom you can't wait to catch up.” —Sun-Sentinal

“A triumphant return for McKnight. Misery Bay is as good as the previous ones in this critically acclaimed series. The plot is as suspenseful as they come, with lots of unpredictable twists and turns.” —The Associated Press

“Superb.... Assured prose, a thrilling plot, and a surprising, satisfying conclusion make this a winner.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Hamilton's prose is straight and clean, as devoid of pretense as the author's name -- Steve, just Steve, with no accompanying initials. The book's complexity comes in Hamilton's gift for layers and the slow reveal.” —Seattle Times

“The best mystery novel I've read in a while.” —John J. Miller, The National Review

“This new entry in Hamilton's Alex McKnight series is one of his best. ... You'll not put this down willingly, and when you do, you'll still be thinking about it.” —Romantic Times

“Outstanding.” —Yahoo! Shine

“A solid, character- and conflict-driven procedural with one of his twistier plots.” —The Boston Globe

“Hamilton is as good as anyone out there when it comes to fast-paced dark mysteries.” —City Pulse

“Hamilton's compelling, vigorous prose doesn't allow the option of taking a break.” —Los Angeles Times

“Steve Hamilton writes the kind of stories that manly men and tough-minded women can't resist.” —The New York Times

“Hamilton writes tough, passionate novels.... This is crime writing at its very best.” —George Pelecanos

“Hamilton gives us mysteries within mysteries as well as a hero who simply won't be beaten down.” —The Miami Herald

“Already one of our best writers.” —Laura Lippman

“Hamilton's prose moves us smoothly along and his characters are marvelously real.” —Publishers Weekly

“Hamilton's prose...remains an unself-consciously terse pleasure.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Hamilton... paints a rich and vivid portrait of a world where the chill in the air is often matched by that of the soul.” —The Providence Journal

“Hamilton never misses a beat.” —Rocky Mountain News

“I really like his main character, Alex McKnight, and I'm ready to re-visit Paradise, Michigan.” —James Patterson on North of Nowhere

Kirkus Reviews

After six years of hiatus, Hamilton returns ex-cop Alex McKnight to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, land that he loves, and sets him against a psychopathic killer who thinks he's Alfred Hitchcock.

With the freezing wind blowing off Lake Superior—never mind that it's officially spring—Michigan's UP might not be the first place most would think of as paradise. Unless, like Alex McKnight, you actually live in Paradise, a small, frost-bitten town abutting the Canadian border, and would never willingly live anywhere else.So there's Alex, unfazed by a typically bitter UP night, enjoying a functioning fireplace, his signature Molson ale and similar life-affirming comforts when the door to the Glasgow Inn opens to a man with whom he shares a mutual hatred. Well, perhaps a shade less than that. "Just call it a persistent lack of liking each other," explains Roy Maven to Jackie Connery, owner of the Glasgow. All Alex's previous encounters with hard-eyed, congenitally irascible Maven, chief of police in nearby Sault Ste. Marie, have been unpleasant to say the least, yet here he is asking for a favor, and a strange one at that.A friend has suffered a terrible loss. His college student son has inexplicably taken his own life, and the grieving father is desperate for answers. Will Alex forget past grudges, dust off his infrequently used but still valid P.I. license, visit Michigan Tech and ask the kids some pertinent questions? Of course he will—Alex McKnight–errant is programmed for that sort of thing. Predictably, the suicide turns out to be a murder, while the killer involved turns out to be a bizarre kind of filmmaker in whose eerie epic Alex comes within an eyelash of playing a death scene.

Too soft in the middle to be among the best in this estimable series; still, Hamilton (The Lock Artist, 2010, etc.) has a great time with the love-hate relationship between two alpha males.

Product Details

Brilliance Audio
Publication date:
Alex McKnight Series , #8
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt



It is the third night of January, two hours past midnight, and everyone is in bed except this man. He is young and there’s no earthly reason for him to be here on this shoreline piled with snow with a freezing wind coming in off of Lake Superior, the air so cold here in this lonely place, cold enough to burn a man’s skin until he becomes numb and can no longer feel anything at all.But he is here in this abandoned dead end near the water’s edge, twenty-six miles from his home near the college. Twenty-six miles from his warm bed. He is outside his car, with the driver’s side door still open and the only light the glow of the dashboard. The headlights are off. The engine is still running.He is facing the lake, the endless expanse of water. It is not frozen because a small river feeds into the lake here and the motion is enough to keep the ice from forming. A miracle in itself, because otherwise this place feels like the coldest place in the whole world.The rope is tight around his neck. He swings only slightly in the wind from the lake. The snow will come soon and it will cover the ground along with the car and the crown of his lifeless head.He will hang here from the branch of this tree for almost thirty-six hours, until his car runs out of gas and the battery dies and his face turns blue from the cold. A man on a snowmobile will finally see him through the trees. He’ll make a call on his cell phone and an hour later two deputies will arrive on the scene and the young man will be lowered to the ground.On that night, I know nothing of this young man or this young man’s death. Or what may have led him to tie that noose and to slip it around his neck. I am not there to see it, God knows, and I won’t even hear of it until three months later. I live on the shores of the same lake but it would take me five hours to find this place they call Misery Bay. Five hours of driving down empty roads with a good map to find a part of the lake I’d never even heard of.That’s how big this lake is.*   *   *“It’s not the biggest lake in the world. You guys do know that, right?”The man was wearing a pink snowmobile suit. He didn’t sound like he was from downstate Michigan. Probably Chicago, or one of the rich suburbs just outside of Chicago. The snowmobile suit probably set him back at least five hundred dollars, one of those space-age polymer waterproof-but-breathable suits you find in a catalog, and I’m sure the color was listed as “coral” or “shrimp” or “sea foam” or some such thing. But to me it was as pink as a girl’s nursery.“I mean, I don’t want to be a jerk about it and all, but that’s all I hear up here. How goddamned big Lake Superior is and how it’s the biggest, deepest lake in the world. You guys know it’s not, right? That’s all I’m saying.”Jackie stopped wiping the glass he was holding. Jackie Connery, the owner of the place, looking and sounding for all time like he just stepped red-faced off a fishing boat from the Outer Hebrides, even if he’d been living here in the Upper Peninsula for over forty years now. Jackie Connery, the man who still drove across the bridge once a week to buy me the real thing, Molson Canadian, brewed in Canada. Not the crap they bottle here in the States and criminally try to pass off as the same thing.Jackie Connery, the man who wasn’t born here, who didn’t grow up here. The man who still couldn’t cope with the long winters, even after forty years. The one man you did not want to poke with a sharp stick in January or February or March. Or any kind of stick, sharp or dull. Not until the sun came out and he could at least imitate a normal human being again.“What’s that you’re saying now?” He was looking at the man in the pink snowmobile suit with a Popeye squint in his right eye. The poor man had no idea what that look meant.“I’m just saying, you know, to set the record straight. Lake Superior is not the biggest lake in the world. Or the deepest.”Jackie put the glass down and stepped forward. “So which particular lake, pray tell, are you going to suggest is bigger?”The man leaned back on his stool, maybe two inches.“Well, technically, that would be the Caspian Sea.”“I thought we were talking about lakes.”“Technically speaking. That’s what I’m saying. The Caspian Sea is technically a lake and not a sea.”“And it’s bigger than Lake Superior.”“Yes,” the man said. “Definitely.”“The water in the Caspian Sea,” Jackie said, “is it saltwater or fresh?”The man swallowed. “It’s saltwater.”“Okay, then. If it’s technically a lake, then it’s the biggest, deepest saltwater lake in the world. Apples and oranges, am I right? Can we agree on that much?”Jackie turned, and the man should have let it go. But he didn’t.“Well, actually, no.”Jackie stopped.“Lake Baikal,” the man said. “In Russia. That’s fresh water. And it’s way deeper than Lake Superior.”“In Russia, you said? Is that where it is?”“Lake Baikal, yes. I don’t know if it has a bigger surface area, but I know it’s got a lot more water in it. Like twice as much as Lake Superior. So really, in that respect, it’s twice as big.”Jackie nodded his head, like this was actually an interesting fact he had just learned instead of the most ridiculous statement ever uttered by a human being. It would have been like somebody telling him that Mexico is actually more Scottish than Scotland.I was sitting by the fireplace, of course. On a cold morning on the last day of March, after cutting some wood and touching up the road with my plow, where else would I be? But either way I was close enough to hear the whole exchange, and right about then I was hoping we’d all find a way to end it peacefully.The man in the pink snowmobile suit started fishing for his wallet. Jackie raised a hand to stop him.“Don’t even bother, sir. Your money’s no good here.”The man looked over at me this time, as if I could actually help him.“A man as smart as you,” Jackie said, “it’ll be my honor to buy you a drink.”“Well, okay, but come on, don’t you—”“Are you riding today?”“Uh, yeah,” the man said, looking down at his suit. Like what the hell else would he be doing?“Silly me. Of course you are. So why don’t you head back on out there while we still have some snow left.”“It is pretty light this year. Must be global warming or something.”“Global warming, now. So you mean like our winter might last ten months instead of eleven? Is that the idea? You’re like a walking library of knowledge, I swear.”“Listen, is there a problem here? Because I don’t—”“No, no,” Jackie said. “No problem. You go on out and enjoy your ride. In fact, you know what? I hear they’ve got a lot more snow in Russia this year. Up by that real big lake. What was it called again?”The man didn’t answer.“Lake Baikal,” I said.“I wasn’t talking to you, Alex.”“Just trying to help.”“I’m leaving,” the man said, already halfway to the door. “And I won’t be back.”“When you get to that lake, do me a favor, huh? I’m still not convinced it’s deeper, so can you drive your snowmobile and let it sink to the bottom with you still on it? You think you could do that? I’d really appreciate it.”The man slammed the door behind him. Another drinking man turned away for life, not that he’d have any other place to go in Paradise, Michigan. Jackie picked up his towel and threw it at me. I ignored him and turned back to the fire.They have long, long winters up here. Did I mention that yet? By the time the end of March drags around, everyone’s just a few degrees past crazy. Not just Jackie.*   *   *The sun was trying to come out as I was driving back up my road. It was an old unpaved logging road, with banks of snow lingering on either side. When the snow started to melt, the road would turn to mud and I’d have a whole new set of problems to deal with. By the time it dried out, it would be time for black fly season.I passed Vinnie’s cabin first. Vinnie “Red Sky” LeBlanc, my only neighbor and maybe my only true friend. Meaning the one person who truly understood me, who never wanted anything from me, and who never tried to change me.I passed by the first cabin, the one my father and I had built a million years ago—before I went off to play baseball and then become a cop—then the next four cabins, each bigger than the one before it, until I got to the end of the road. There stood the biggest cabin of all, looking almost as good as the original. I’d been rebuilding it for the past year, starting with just the fireplace and chimney my father had built stone by stone. Now it was almost done. Now it was almost as good as it was before somebody burned it down.I parked the truck and went inside. Vinnie was already there, on his hands and knees in the corner of the kitchen, once again working harder and longer than I ever did myself, making me feel like my debt to him was more than I could ever repay.“What are you ruining now?” I said to him.“I’m fixing the trim you put down on this floor.” He was in jeans and a white T-shirt, his denim jacket hanging on the back of one of the kitchen chairs. He had a long strip of quarter round molding in his hand, the very same strip I had just tacked down the day before.“You’re ripping it up? How is that fixing it?”“You used the wrong size trim. You need to start over.”“It’s not the wrong size. Damn it, Vinnie, is it any wonder it’s taking me forever to finish this place? You wanna rip the ceiling off, too?”“You got a good half-inch gap here,” he said, pointing to the gap between the floor and the lowest log on the wall.“That’s a quarter inch.”“Here it might be, but over on the other side of the room it gets wider. You have to measure the gap at its longest before you go out and buy your trim.”“Vinnie, what the hell’s wrong with you?”“I told you, you bought the wrong size. And as long as you’re buying new molding, get something with a little more style, too. Quarter round is boring.”“Nobody’s going to notice it. It’s on the floor, for God’s sake.”He turned away from me, shaking his head. He grabbed another length of molding and ripped it up like he was pulling weeds.“Something’s eating at you,” I said. “I can tell.”“I’m fine. I just wish you’d do things right for a change.”First Jackie and now Vinnie. Such a parade of cheerful people in my life. I was truly a lucky man.“It’s actually trying to get nice outside,” I said. “We might even have some sunlight soon. Will that make you feel better?”He didn’t look up. “You know one thing that bothers me?”“What?”“How long have you been living in this cabin?”“Ever since I’ve been working on it. It just makes things easier.”“I think you’re done now, Alex. You’ve got the floor down. You’ve got the woodstove working. As soon as I redo your trim, this place will be ready to rent out again.”“It’s been a bad winter for the snowmobile people. You know that.”“You could have this place rented right now. It’s your biggest cabin. You’re just wasting money.”“Since when are you my accountant?”He stopped what he was doing and sat still on the floor. He finally turned to look at me. “You need to move back into your cabin. You can’t keep avoiding it.”“I will.” It was my turn to look away. “As soon as I’m done here.”Vinnie didn’t say anything else. I got down on my knees and helped him tear up the remaining strips of floor molding. An hour later I was on my way to Sault Ste. Marie to buy the new strips, five eighths instead of half inch, cloverleaf instead of quarter round. As I passed that first cabin, I made a point of not even looking at it.*   *   *That was how the day went. That last day in March. It started with breakfast at the Glasgow Inn and ended with dinner in the same place. It was like most every other day in Paradise. Vinnie had helped me finish the baseboard trim, then he’d gone over to the rez to sit with his mother for a while. She’d not been feeling like herself lately. Maybe just one more person who was tired of winter. I was hoping that was it, that she’d feel better once the sun came back. That we’d all feel better.Vinnie gave me a nod as he came through the door. Back from the rez, then a shift at the casino dealing blackjack, stopping in now because that’s what you do around here. Every night. Jackie was watching hockey on the television mounted above the bar. Vinnie went over and stood behind him, just like I had told him to do.“Hey, Jackie,” he said, “I heard something interesting today.”“What’s that, Vin?”“Did you know Lake Superior isn’t really the biggest lake in the world? Or the deepest?”Jackie turned and glared at me.“I’ll throw you right out on your ass,” he said. “I swear to God I will.”Finally, something to smile about, on a cold, cold night. I looked back into the fire and watched the flames dance. My last hour of peace until everything would change.We’re not supposed to believe in evil anymore, right? It’s all about abnormal behavior now. Maladjustment, overcompensation, or my favorite, the antisocial personality disorder. Fancy words I was just starting to hear in that last year on the force, before I looked into the eyes of a madman as he pulled that trigger without even blinking.In a way, I’ve never gotten past it. I’m still lying on that floor, watching the light in Franklin’s eyes slowly going out. My partner, the man I was supposed to protect at all costs. Later, in the hospital, they pulled two slugs from my body and left the one that was too close to my heart to touch. It’s been with me ever since, a constant reminder of the evil I saw that night, all those years ago on a warm summer evening in Detroit. You’d never convince me otherwise. No, I’d seen evil as deep as it could ever get.But like Jackie and his beloved lake, you’d never know there was something deeper out there until somebody came to you and told you about it. A deeper lake. A lake you’ve never seen before. Even then, you might not believe it. Not unless he took you there and showed it to you.It was about to happen. Minutes away, then seconds. Then the door opened and the cold air blew in and the last person I expected to see that night stepped inside, carrying a big problem and looking for my help.


Copyright © 2011 by Steve Hamilton

Meet the Author

STEVE HAMILTON attended the University of Michigan and won the prestigious Hopwood Award for writing. His first novel, A Cold Day in Paradise, won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Best First Private Eye Novel Contest. It went on to win the Edgar and Shamus Awards for Best First Novel. In 2006, Hamilton won the Michigan Author Award for his outstanding body of work. He lives in Cottekill, New York, with his wife and their two children.

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Misery Bay (Alex McKnight Series #8) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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I love the Alex McKnight series.
shoegalTR More than 1 year ago
I love the Alex McKnight series. I picked up Misery Bay by accident at the book store and I could not put it down. I have now read all the McKnight books and can't wait to read the next. Steve Hamilton is my new favorite author and I hope he continues this series. Alex mcKnight is a character worth getting to know.
cate-k More than 1 year ago
I only recently discovered this author, and I very much enjoy his works. I especially like the Alex McKnight series. I like the way we are in Alex' head during the entire story and can "see" everything as it happens. This story is fast moving and interesting, and as usual I was rooting for Alex to save the day.
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gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
The first page of the newest book by Steve Hamilton, which brings the welcome return of Alex McKnight, describes a scene wherein the body of a young man is found hanging from a tree branch at the edge of a bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For those new to the series, McKnight is a former Detroit cop and current holder of a p.i. license, although he protests that he ‘doesn’t do that anymore’: He owns and rents out cabins to ‘the snowmobile people’ in season. Three months after that first-page event takes place, McKnight is approached by Roy Maven, Chief of Police in “the Soo” [Sault St. Marie], who asks for his help. This from a man whose relationship with McKnight could at best be described as ‘fraught’ – as the Chief says, ‘just call it a persistent lack of liking each other.” The dead boy’s father had been Maven’s partner on the police force, and Maven wants McKnight to investigate the circumstances that could have led to what appears to have been a suicide. Having suffered horrendous personal losses himself – his partner on the Detroit police force, the woman he loved – there is no way this particular man could refuse. In what is perhaps the unlikeliest of alliances, McKnight agrees. The place where the body was found is the eponymous Misery Bay, a fitting enough name for the site itself and for what happened there, and a five-hour drive away from McKnight’s home on Lake Superior, in a town called Paradise. McKnight once again periodically turns to his friend Leon Prudell, the once and perhaps future p.i., for his unerring ability to point him in the right direction. The investigation takes some unpredictable turns, as more lives are lost and more still endangered. The writing is wonderful – no surprise here. The long, long winter of Paradise is once again made palpable by the author: “The sun went down. The wind picked up and started howling and I knew the wind chill would be something like thirty below. Another beautiful April night in Paradise. . . [where] springtime felt like a fairy tale.” [And I loved that the author tips his hat to fellow mystery writers, both from NYC: Reed Coleman and Jim Fusilli, both police sergeants in this incarnation.] As dark as the story line is, there is just enough humor injected into the writing and, as usual for this author, it is a sheer pleasure to read, and highly recommended. [It should perhaps be noted that the next book in the series, “Die a Stranger,” will be published by Minotaur in July 2012.]
corvettemary More than 1 year ago
I first read an article in the newspaper reviewing this book. It intrigued me. I liked the fact that the towns, roads, lakes, etc. were actually the "real" thing. Knowing Michigan as I do I could relate to streets, cities & expressways and actually follow a "visual" path of where the characters were driving. VERY good story with an unexpected twist in the end. Well worth the reading! I loved it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoy all the books about Alex and the UP of Michigan.
RICK69MI More than 1 year ago
The old adage "Do what you do best" applies here. Hamilton stays in the UP and presents another excellent story.
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Well written and a good story. Definitely recommended.
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glauver More than 1 year ago
Steve Hamilton has returned to his Alex McKnight series after several years. The novel shifts the characters by teaming Alex with his nemesis Chief Roy Maven in a search for a killer of law enforcement officers. When we last saw McKnight (A Stolen Season) he had sunk deep in despair and tragedy. This novel begins his return to a life where hope is possible. The story is more thriller than mystery and the ending a bit out there but Hamilton keeps you interested in his protagonist, a man scarred by violence and tragedy.Few writers are better at writing terse prose that reminds you of Chandler, Hammett,and that other Michigan PI writer, Loren D. Estleman.
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