Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton – A Book Review

I recently discovered Steve Hamilton and read his work entitled The Lock Artist, a book I thoroughly enjoyed.  So when the opportunity arose to procure an advance copy of his latest, a thriller called Misery Bay, I jumped at the chance.

Misery Bay stars a character called Alex McKnight.  McKnight has, apparently, appeared before in previous Hamilton works, but my unfamiliarity with McKnight proved inconsequential.  Hamilton eased me into McKnight’s world by utilizing an organic, smooth narrative style that subtly revealed the character’s history.  In fact, so seamless was Hamilton’s introduction of McKnight that I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if this was the character’s first appearance!

McKnight is a former Detroit cop who now resides in Paradise, a frigid little town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  McKnight has a long history of tragedy, one I won’t spoil here, but the man keeps a good sense of sardonic humor about him and is, by all accounts, a capable protagonist.  He doesn’t particularly want to be a hero, however, and is very much at ease hanging out at his favorite bar and drinking his favorite beer.

Through a series of gruesome events, though, McKnight finds himself ensnared in a case involving multiple suicides and murders, all involving state police officers and their children.  Honor and duty binds him to the case, and while he doesn’t necessarily want to take on the role of “detective,” he can’t turn his back on those in need of help.  In the end, it’s a grisly affair, one that will shock you and keep you on the edge of your seat.

Hamilton’s writing style is fluid and conversational with a special emphasis on realistic, dynamic dialogue.  Though there’s a mystery in Misery Bay, I’m not sure I would classify it as such.  I would be more comfortable calling it a thriller.  There’s plenty of action, humor, gore, and even a touch of drama which all come together to form a true page-turner.  Michael Connelly and James Patterson offer favorable quotes in regards to Hamilton and his McKnight, and after reading Misery Bay I can understand why!

The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton – A Book Review

The Lock Artist pleasantly surprised me.  While I realized it was a crime/mystery novel, I never expected it to have so much heart, such great characterization, nor did I imagine the plot would be so tightly woven.

The protagonist of the novel, Michael, is a young man who refuses to speak due to a past tragedy and has a preternatural talent at picking locks and opening safes.  His history is complex and rich, and Hamilton makes a point to slowly reveal those things we most want to know, and in doing so he builds the tension.  It’s worth noting, consequently, that those revelations are well worth the wait.

Hamilton presents an interesting first-person narrative style by having Michael recount his past to us, but he does so in two different phases.  One phase of his recollections are his most recent jobs, especially the one that lands him in his current predicament.  The other phase explains how and why he initially became a “box man,” a safe-cracker.  Both plot lines are engaging, and Hamilton converges them at just the right moments.  The meticulous complexity of Hamilton’s plot was a delight.  There literally is nothing in this novel that does not play an important role to the overall story.

Hamilton also impressed me by making it seem as though Michael really is a “golden boy” at opening safes.  I have no idea how accurate Hamilton’s depictions are, but they certainly were specific enough to suspend my disbelief.

But the great joy of The Lock Artist is the precision Hamilton exemplifies with his main character.  Michael is a realistic, charismatic, deeply layered character and I found myself truly caring about his plight.  The greatest compliment I can give Hamilton is that Michael now exists within my mind as a vital entity.

With a smooth, enjoyable writing style, Hamilton produced a fast-paced, incredibly well-crafted novel that not only provides plenty of excitement, but some legitimate characterization as well.  Even if you’re not a crime/mystery novel reader, I know you’ll enjoy The Lock Artist.