Writers and Writing column By Michael Tidemann
Dead Man Running a nail-biter
Every once in a while, a detective novel comes along that breaks all the barriers of genre and is destined to become a literary classic.
That’s the best way to describe Dead Man Running by author Steve Hamilton, formerly from Upper Peninsula Michigan and now living in Cottekill, N.Y.
Bounty hunter and former Detroit police officer Alex McKnight is comfortably ensconced in a warm, comfortable bar on a cold UP night when he gets a call from his ex-wife Jeannie – the last person he ever expected to call. It seems that her grandmother had left the two of them a house on the lake, despite McKnight and Jeannie’s divorce years before.
Not long after hearing from Jeannie, just as McKnight is about to apprehend a miscreant, FBI agents blow his collar. They put him on a flight to Arizona where his presence has been requested by a very special person – a serial killer named Martin Livermore.
McKnight’s meeting with Livermore seems like something from Silence of the Lambs. Livermore says to him:
“Do you feel it? The gravity of this moment? The two of us finally sitting in the same room together?” He seemed to pick each word carefully, as if lifting it from a case lined with black velvet.
Livermore, a brilliant but depraved robotics engineer, knows every detail of McKnight’s life, right down to his semiprofessional baseball career batting average. And still Livermore doesn’t reveal their connection.
McKnight and a team of law enforcement officers follow Livermore’s directions to a remote canyon where the suspect said he had had left another victim still alive. Just as the agents and deputies think they’re about to rescue Livermore’s seventh victim, an explosion rakes through the lawmen, leaving McKnight the only one alive.
While the Bureau wants to keep McKnight close at hand, he follows his instincts and sets off on his own across the country to find Livermore who leaves a trail of female victims. Then, as McKnight finds Livermore’s boyhood home, he makes a frightening discovery that tells how his former wife and he are intricately involved in Livermore’s past.
Hamilton skillfully uses the shifting perspectives of McKnight, Livermore and Jeannie to build story tension. We’re able to see through the eyes of not just McKnight and his former wife, but, frighteningly, Livermore as well.
This is a great read and one that all fans of crime fiction should get.
Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville, Iowa. His author page is amazon.com/author/michaeltidemann
Dead Man Running