"Die a Stranger: An Alex McKnight Novel" (Minotaur Books), by Steve Hamilton
In the years since Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc's father killed three people in a drunken driving accident and got himself banned from the Bay Mills reservation, the young Ojibwa tribal member has never once picked up a drink.
So Vinnie's best friend, Alex McKnight, is understandably concerned to learn Vinnie has been knocking back scotches at a local bar. The concern turns to alarm when Vinnie suddenly disappears.
Meanwhile, five bodies are discovered at a deserted airstrip nearby, the result of a drug deal gone bad.
At first, Alex, a former Detroit cop who moved to Michigan's remote Upper Peninsula a few years ago to get away from trouble like this, cannot imagine the two mysteries are related. But when Buck, Vinnie's slacker cousin, also goes missing, Alex suspects Buck may have somehow drawn Vinnie into the drug deal.
Soon it becomes clear that Alex isn't the only one looking for the cousins. Some big-time drug dealers, convinced that Vinnie and Buck betrayed them at the airstrip, are hunting the pair.
As the story unfolds, Alex races up and down the length of Michigan, following leads, trying to stay one step ahead of the drug dealers and trying to convince suspicious tribal members that he's really on Vinnie's side. Soon he's joined by Vinnie's long-missing father, who shows up to help with the search.
"Die a Stranger" is the ninth crime novel by Steve Hamilton, a two-time Edgar Award winner. As usual, he creates an ensemble of strong, believable characters and spins his suspenseful tale in crisp, hard-boiled prose.
The result is a taut, fast-paced story with lots of gunplay and unexpected twists, along with a poignant subplot about the strained relationship between father and son.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of "Cliff Walk" and "Rogue Island."