Tuesday, 15 October 2013


It's the end of summer in Paradise. Paradise, Michigan, that is, on the Upper Peninsula, and Alex McKnight is anticipating another long and cold winter when he gets a call from Detroit, telling him a killer he helped catch, just days before the shootout where his partner was killed and he took the bullet that is still lodged inside him, is about to be released from prison.

It was a hot summer in Detroit, and Alex was still adjusting to being a cop, after his baseball career peaked in the high minor leagues. Darryl King confessed to the murder of Elana Paige, a young black man who'd killed a robbed a wealthy white housewife who was doing a photography course at Wayne State. And although he doesn't really intend to, Alex finds himself drawn back to the city, and to that summer, and finds that the case was perhaps not as open and shut as he'd thought it was at the time.

Steve Hamilton weaves the two stories together—the summer Alex lost Franklin his partner was also when he began to lose his wife as well—and does it well, mostly because this is a story about the city of Detroit as well. It is a catalogue of loss, of the way a city can suffer from exhaustion and become a shell of itself, and the people who once coped with it in its decline can become shells of themselves as well. It's never overdone; in fact, if anything the landscapes are sketched in very sparingly, and the intimate details of Alex's own loss are more hinted at than described in their agonies. But that helps it all work, as the basic plot, the resolving of the injustice done Darryl King, becomes a torturous maze which Alex, in that stubborn way he's exhibited previously, plugs away at until the path through finally appears.

Sadly, there appears to be no path for Detroit, nor to undo or redo the past. Perhaps Paradise, is, in the end, simply where we find shelter, where we can insulate ourselves against the cold of loss, and the loss of things we love.

Let It Burn by Steve Hamilton
Orion £18.99 ISBN 9781409140771

This review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)

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