Misery Bay delivers the goods.
Misery Bay: An Alex McNight Novel by Steve Hamilton (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 320 pages).
“Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill/ I would set him in chains at the top of the hill/ Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille/ He could die happily ever after.” Bob Dylan, “Tombstone Blues,” Highway 61 Revisited
Steve Hamilton’s Misery Bay is in some ways a typical crime novel. In many ways, however, it is far from typical or cliche. The characters have some moxie and they intrigue the reader and the plot, which is the key to stories of this genre, is far from being formulaic. Hamilton is adept at providing subtle twists and turns just at the point when the reader thinks they finally are on track to reach a satisfying conclusion to the story.
In this novel, a continuation of the Alex McNight mysteries, the former cop and current private investigator, ever the hero, crosses many lines in pursuit of a serial killer. In the process he teams up with police chief Roy Mavens, an unlikely pairing, to jointly face treacherous circumstances at virtually every turn.
The novel takes place primarily in the solitary terrain of the Upper Peninsula, Michigan, creating a perfect backdrop to the tenor of the tale and the characters who inhabit it. And, for the true cop-lovers among us, there are cops everywhere: old ones, current ones, dead ones — they’re everywhere!
About a third of the way through, each chapter is introduced with director comments on film scenes. At first, one can see that they generally relate to the story, but they don’t truly make sense until much further into the story. This tactic is a bit annoying initially, but it does spark the reader’s curiousity, and in the end, it clearly works as the story reaches its intriguing climax and ultimate resolution.
If one suspends disbelief just a bit (hey, this is a novel after all), and tolerates a few minor leaps of faith, there is little to quibble with. Mystery Bay satisfies.
Purists might argue with minor specific aspects of the dialogue, details of the police interactions, or the reality of the film scenes or script references, but none of that gets in the way of the reader’s overall enjoyment of the story.
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “A wonderful book. A wonderful series.” Harlan Coben, author of Six Years.
Dave Moyer is an education administrator and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel.