Summer has finally arrived in Paradise, Michigan, but Alex McKnight doesn't seem to notice the change in the weather. He's been retreating into own his private world the past few months and now he barely leaves his cabin except to go have his meals in the nearby Glasgow Inn. The Inn's proprietor, Jackie, is more and more concerned with Alex's state, and the last straw comes as he watches Alex morosely counting up his "failures" on the eve of his 49th birthday-- his marriage, his baseball career, his stint in the Detroit police. He offers his friend an ultimatum: "Either I take you to the airport and put your ass on a plane to Moosehide or you play poker with me tonight."
The other poker players are men Alex hardly knows, in a posh house near the water. In the middle of the game, masked robbers invade the premises, hold the players at gunpoint and proceed to rob the homeowner. Alex is roused to action and so is his former detective partner, Leon Prudell. Working first against one another and later together, they discover that the crime is far more complex than a simple robbery. There is murder and greed and revenge involved, and a wild chase on the waters of Lake Superior before Alex is forced to realize that there is no retreat from life. And that maybe this is a good thing.
No longer a cop, inactive as a private eye, classic loner Alex McKnight has retreated to his lakeside cabin in this superb yarn, Edgar-winner Hamilton's fourth after 2001's The Hunting Wind. In fact, Alex has become so much a recluse in the little town of Paradise in Michigan's Upper Peninsula that his few friends are worried about him. That leads Jackie Connery, the Scottish-raised proprietor of the bar where Alex sometimes hangs out, to badger him into joining in a friendly poker game at the home of Win Vargas. Before Alex can even work up a good dislike of the blustery, wealth-flaunting Vargas, three armed men interrupt the poker game. While Alex, Jackie and the other players are held at gunpoint, their host is led off to open a safe and his treasured collection of artifacts is trashed or stolen. From that quick beginning, events move swiftly and strangely. Alex finds Vargas's suspicions centering on him; the police, led by old enemy Chief Roy Maven, think Jackie and the other players were in on the robbery. And Alex's ex-partner, PI Leon Prudell, turns out to have yet another take on who's behind the robbery. Hamilton keeps the action fast and furious and manages to keep the reader off balance almost as much as his hero. As usual, Alex takes more than his share of lumps as he rediscovers the importance of friendship, loyalty and courage. While Alex McKnight would probably hate the idea, mysteries this good may make him extremely popular.