Dead Man Running

Mysterious Book Report No. 358

by John Dwaine McKenna

We’ve said it before, and we’ll no doubt say it again, because it’s one of the elements that makes for great drama, as well as the most compelling plots in all of literature . . . and it’s especially true in crime fiction:  The more evil the villain—the more heroic the protagonist.  Put another way; in order for Sherlock Holmes to be the most brilliant detective, his adversary Professor James Moriarity, had to be the most diabolical criminal.  They are opponents who are worthy of each other.  Keep that premise in mind, because our MBR this week is a flat-out, textbook example of a good guy rising above and beyond his limits to meet the challenge of a depraved, vicious and brilliant serial killer whose end game will emerge from the deepest recesses of the human mind.

Dead Man (Running, Putman/Penguin, $26.00, 288 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-57444-3), by Steve Hamilton, revisits his Edgar Award-winning series featuring Alex McKnight.  And this time, the popular, much respected and iconic Private Investigator faces-off with one of the smartest and most evil  characters he’s ever come up against.

The novel begins when a serial killer is captured in Phoenix, Arizona.  His name is Martin T. Livermore and he admits to the murders of six women . . . five of whose bodies are unrecovered.  Then, he confesses to having a seventh victim who’s still alive. But says he’ll only talk to Alex McKnight, a PI who’s living up north, on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the remote little town of Paradise . . . 2000 miles away.  McKnight says he’s never heard of Livermore, nor does he recall ever encountering him while he was a Detroit Police Officer.  Even so, McKnight flies to Phoenix and accompanies the killer and a group of local, state and FBI officers to a remote desert location . . . where the worst nightmare of McKnight’s life takes place, and a cat and mouse chase begins.  Livermore is always one step ahead, taunting McKnight, and leaving more bodies in his wake . . . drawing them farther north with each victim . . . until the stunning conclusion, when Alex learns what binds himself and the killer together . . . and it may cost him everything that he holds dear.  Like all of Hamilton’s work, Dead Man Running will grab you on the first page and won’t let go until the last, when you’ll finally realize it’s way past bedtime!


John Dwaine McKenna