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Three and one half moon gifMinotaur Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0312252951
I loved A Cold Day in Paradise, Steve Hamilton's first book, but it worried me. Without giving away any spoilers, the action in A Cold Day in Paradise arose so integrally out of Alex McKnight's past and present that I couldn't figure out how Hamilton could manage a sequel that packed the same emotional wallop.  

Book: Steve Hamilton, Winter of the Wolf MoonI shouldn't have worried. In Winter of the Wolf Moon, Hamilton weaves a complex web of crime and human frailty that gives the battle-weary McKnight plausible reason for lumbering into the fray again.  

McKnight comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress -- an Indian woman from the nearby Ojibway tribe who recently returned to her home in Michigan's upper peninsula, apparently fleeing an abusive relationship. McKnight gives her shelter in one of the cabins he usually rents to hunters and snowmobilers, but she disappears by morning. Everyone on both sides of the law thinks McKnight knows her whereabouts -- not to mention the whereabouts of mysterious bag she carried. For some reason, everyone except the paladin McKnight considers the contents of this bag far more interesting than the woman herself. 

Hamilton should post warning signs for the faint of heart. McKnight tangles with violent characters. Even though he possesses the proverbial cat's nine lives, McKnight uses up so many of them by the end of Winter of tBook: Steve Hamilton, A Cold Day in Paradisehe Wolf Moon, he'll need to spend a lot more time napping by the fire -- not that I think he can or will.  

Hamilton avoids the charge of excessive or cartoon violence by showing the effect of each battle on McKnight with the painstaking accuracy of a cartographer. You get the feeling maybe he didn't just make the character up. Somewhere there must be a real Alex McKnight this Hamilton guy uses to trace each new scar on his hero's physical and emotional landscape as it occurs. 

And without neglecting the reader's need for closure in the book at hand, Hamilton also manages to leave -- you couldn't call it a loose end, really. Instead, Hamilton weaves a thread into his tale that provides a reason for McKnight's adventures to continue. Or if you like the map analogy, even after Winter of the Wolf Moon races to its conclusion, there remains uncharted territory across which Hamilton can write "here be dragons."  

Donna Andrews

Donna Andrews is the author of Murder with Peacocks, which won the St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Award in May 1998. Her second book in the Meg and Michael series, Murder with Puffins, will be released this spring.

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