In Steve Hamilton's nine novels celebrating the isolation of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Alex McKnight has criss-crossed the Lake Superior shoreline from the Keweenaw Peninsula to the Soo Locks. When McKnight's marriage fell apart and a bust gone bad killed his partner and left a bullet in his chest, he took disability retirement from the Detroit Police Department and moved to Whitefish Bay, rebuilding a group of tourist cabins with the help of Vinnie Red Sky Leblanc, an Ojibwe casino dealer.
When the isolation and 10-month winters get to him, McKnight goes to the Glasgow Inn for a real brewed-in-Canada Molson and owner Jackie's home-made beef stew. Now and then, a local crime pulls him out of "retirement."
In Let It Burn, McKnight is drawn back to Detroit. Twenty years after confessing to the brutal murder of a wealthy white woman in an abandoned railroad station, Darryl King is getting parole. Something about the easy confession seemed wrong to McKnight at the time, but the political pressure to put someone away led to a quick conviction. With King back on the streets, possibly looking to get even with the cop who put him away, McKnight is compelled to take another look at the case.
Hamilton's previous McKnight books were steeped in the lonely ethos of the "U.P.," but he may be even more successful in his rendering of today's broken Detroit as we follow the tenacious McKnight past boarded-up mansions, railroad bridges covered in graffiti and trash-strewn yards. It doesn't make a pretty picture, but Let It Burn may be Hamilton's best novel yet. --Bruce Jacobs