Monday, January 21, 2008

"A Cold Day In Paradise"

Our mystery book reading club selected “A Cold Day In Paradise” by Steve Hamilton for the February mystery discussion. This is the first time I have read anything by Steve Hamilton. It is the first in a series of seven about a private investigator called Alex McKnight.

There were two things about this book I felt were interesting – the sleuth’s name and the title of the book. Alex McKnight is an ex-cop and an ex-minor leaguer. He has moved back home to Paradise, Michigan where he manages some cabin rentals and works as a pi for a lawyer named Uttley. He becomes involved in a mystery when there is a murder discovered by Edwin who considers Alex as a friend. McKnight comes to Edwin’s rescue in this murder / mystery – just like a knight would come to the rescue of a damsel in distress. This was the first thing I found of interest in this book.

As I mentioned before, the title of the book was also interesting. The first thing to relate about the title is the location of this mystery and the weather. “A Cold Day In Paradise” takes place in Paradise (Michigan) and the “days” (and nights) are cold at this time of the year. But I think the significance of the title goes deeper than this. There is a similar phrase – a cold day in hell – which is used when something is unlikely to happen. This also applies here.

After the first murder occurs, Chief Maven of the Soo police department instructs Alex to leave it alone and let the police department investigate it. Well…, it is unlikely that Alex will stay out of it (and the mysterious events that follow). He continues to investigate and is drawn deeper when things point to a murderer (Rose) at the end of his career as a police officer. How Rose is committing these murders and contacting Alex is in itself a mystery since Rose is supposed to be in a maximum security prison. But the present day murderer identifies himself as Rose and knows things only “known” by Alex and himself.

Finally there is a confrontation between the murderer and Alex in which the murderer is killed. Instead of being Rose, the murderer turns out to be a man named Raymond Julius – somebody Alex is unfamiliar with. Mystery solved?? No Chance!!!

Alex continues to investigate and begins to unravel the mystery. Raymond Julius was a “partner” with the private investigator who was replaced by Alex. He had committed the murders. Alex visits Rose in jail to determine how Raymond Julius got the information about the murder of his police partner years before. On his visit to Rose he discovered two things that did not fit. First, Raymond Julius could NOT have communicated with Rose in prison. Also Rose believed he had killed two police - Alex as well as his partner.

As he is making the long drive back from the prison, he realizes somebody else had access to information about Rose. He returned to find his boss (Uttley the lawyer) packing “to go on vacation”. Since there was no way he could prove it, Alex convinced Uttley to explain the murders. It turns out it was a conspiracy between Uttley, Edwin’s mother, and Edwin (who was supposedly murdered as well by Raymond Julius). They recruited Raymond Julius to kill the two bookies who Edwin had deep gambling debts with. They manipulated Alex by bringing him in on the case. They also arranged the disappearance of Edwin. They also manipulated Raymond Julius into confronting Alex in order to eliminate a loose end.

Alex left Uttley with two warnings. First, Uttley is also a loose end and Edwin’s mother may decide to eliminate him at some point. Second, someday the three conspirators may find Alex at their front doors to get a payback for what they did and how they used him.

When will Alex let go of it? Only time will tell. However Alex has carried guilt since the day his partner was shot and killed. He feels if he would have pulled his gun sooner, his partner might be alive. Now he is able to let that go. When? On a cold day in Paradise.

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