Why is it that so many ex-cops have bullets millimetres from their hearts? This is a fact according to authors of top crime fiction! Personally I don't like the idea of having a piece of deadly metal only a whisker away from my vitals. However, for a grizzled ex-cop it gives them something extra. With the knowledge that they may die at any second they will live their life to the full, staring danger in the face and saying "Back off face of danger". With this inspirational image in mind perhaps I should go down to some of the less pleasant areas of GB and get myself shot? Knowing my luck I would not end up with a cool bullet next to my heart, just dead. I will have to make do with another instalment of Steve Hamilton's 'Alex McKnight' series instead.
Alex McKnight is somewhat of a recluse, after serving 8 years as a Detroit police officer he decided to call it a day when he barely managed to stay alive after being shot and left for dead. Now he lives in the cold north of Michigan were he rents out his six cabins. During the off season he finds little to do so he has stumbled into becoming a private detective. Therefore when an old friend, Randy Wilkins, from 30 years ago turns up looking for help finding a woman he knew when he was twenty; McKnight goes against his better judgment and decides to lend a helping hand. The road trip back to Detroit will lead to a far more dangerous investigation than McKnight would first imagine with not everybody being who they seem at first.
For a crime novel you may notice like I did the distinct lack of crime in the first 100 pages of this book. Instead we are introduced to Alex McKnight and a friend that turns up after 30 years. This laid back style of letting the story develop at a slower pace continues throughout, but in the first section it's too obvious. I enjoyed reading about their relationship and how McKnight used his PI skills to find a missing person. However, having read numerous other Hamilton novels I expected a little more action and this did not occur until later. If you can get through the first part of the book the pace really begins to pick up.
The characters are probably the best element of 'The Hunting Wind' as Hamilton always couples McKnight alongside an opposite. This is certainly the case with his old baseball friend Randy. McKnight is an internal character who does not say much, but has a good heart. Randy is a man who talks a lot and can charm anyone in to doing pretty much anything. Therefore, the relationship they have is a good one and it's what makes the slower elements of the book still good to read. Perhaps Hamilton could have increased the pace a little, but the first 100 pages give this relationship the time to breath.
Another area that Hamilton excels at is fast, visceral action sequences. This is certainly the case here as when the action does take place it is great. There are scenes of hand to hand combat as well as gunplay and they are all fun to read. McKnight is a character that seems to always get bruised up in his investigations and this is the case again. This vulnerability is one of the reasons that he is so good to read about as he knows that what he is about to do will hurt, but he does it anyway because he is a good man.
The element that probably lets the book down the most is not the pacing, but the story. It revolves around discovering people from the past and realising that not everyone is what they seem. There is a good twist in the book, but unfortunately Hamilton uses almost the exact same trick later in the book and you can not do it twice. This poor judgement by Hamilton meant that I could tell that not everything was as it seemed and it tainted the book. Perhaps some readers will not recognise this, but I am thinking that most fans of crime fiction will.
'The Hunting Wind' is certainly the weakest of the Alex McKnight books, but it is still a decent book. The issue is that the other McKnight novels have all been great and this one is just average. For fans of the series there is enough here to entertain as we enjoy the characters. However, there is little for people looking to read it as a stand alone title, they would be best of reading the series from its beginning and reading this one in sequence.
Author: Steve Hamilton
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49
Alex McKnight is sipping his beer in the Glasgow Inn when Randy Wilkins, a friend from his days in Detroit, turns up out of the blue. Finally he gets to the point. Randy's in love with a girl called Maria and wants to find her. The only problem being that he last saw her thirty years ago. It's a test of friendship to say the least and, at first, Alex can't think of anything worse. But loyalty gets the better of him and together Alex and Randy go back to Detroit where, as a police officer, Alex got shot. The bullet is still lodged in his chest. Their search for Maria leads them back to the past - a strange country which is unsavoury for Randy and painful for Alex as they hunt for Randy's lost love and Alex's lost life.