Die a Stranger (Alex McKnight Series #9)

Die a Stranger (Alex McKnight Series #9)

by Steve Hamilton


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The New York Times Bestseller

Late one night, a plane lands on a deserted airstrip. Five dead bodies are found there the next morning. And now Vinnie LeBlanc is missing.

Vinnie is a member of the Ojibwa Indian tribe and he just might be Alex McKnight's best friend. So Alex can't help but be worried when he disappears. There's a deadly crime war creeping into Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and Alex never would have thought that his friend could be involved. But after an unexpected stranger arrives in town, Alex will soon find out that the stakes are higher than he ever could have imagined.

The latest in Steve Hamilton's Edgar Award–winning series, Die a Stranger just might be his boldest book yet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250000101
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 06/11/2013
Series: Alex McKnight Series , #9
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 146,632
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

Steve Hamilton's debut, A Cold Day in Paradise, won the PWA/SMP Best First Private Eye Novel Contest before winning both an Edgar and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel. His standalone novel, The Lock Artist, was named a New York Times Notable Crime Book, received an Alex Award, and went on to win the Edgar Award for Best Novel. He attended the University of Michigan, where he won the prestigious Hopwood Award for writing, and now lives in Cottekill, New York, with his wife and their two children.

Read an Excerpt




On a clear, warm night in June, a small airplane is flying low over Lake Huron. It’s a Cessna, a single-engine four-seater. The pilot is flying alone. The back of the plane is filled with the cargo, all wrapped up tight in plastic bags.

The plane’s transponder is turned off. The pilot is flying by sight only. At such a low altitude he is undetectable by radar. As he approaches the airstrip in Sandusky, Michigan, he can barely make out the dark runway. It’s a tiny airport, after all, and it’s been closed for hours. But he does the one simple thing that all pilots know how to do. He keys the microphone five times in a row on the ARCAL frequency. That sends the automatic signal to the beacon on the ground, which then turns on the approach lights, the runway edge lights, and the taxiways. These lights will remain on for exactly fifteen minutes. More than enough time to land and then to take off again. It’s one part of a simple, perfect plan.

A truck is waiting next to the runway, with its lights off. The two men in the truck will transfer the bags to the back of the truck. Working quickly, they can do this in under three minutes. This is also part of the plan. Just as simple and just as perfect.

Except that the two men in the truck are not the two men the pilot is expecting. That’s where the simple, perfect plan begins to break down.

You can only imagine the pilot’s surprise when he lands and finds two strangers waiting for him.

The two men who were originally waiting with the truck, they’ll be found handcuffed to the fence at the end of the runway. When the two newcomers have emptied the plane of its cargo, the pilot will be allowed to leave, with a very simple and very clear message he’ll carry back to Canada, to the people who sent him across the border in the first place.

The deliveries will not stop. Two men handcuffed to a fence, with guns pressed against their heads … Everything that happened on this night will be merely an inconvenience. It will not interrupt the transport of high-grade marijuana into the United States from Canada. Not when there’s so much money to be made.

That’s how this business works, no matter what the product, no matter which border. New business arrangements are made. New partners replace the old partners, if they’re muscled out of the deal. But the planes keep flying.

*   *   *

It may have been a warm night at that little airport in Sandusky, Michigan. But I was three hundred miles away, due north, sitting in front of the fireplace in Paradise, Michigan, where it was a good twenty degrees cooler. We don’t rush into summer up here. Of course, I had no knowledge of anything happening on that airport’s runway. Or any airport’s runway, for that matter. I found out about it two days later, the same way most other people did. I read the story in the newspaper.

I still pick up the Detroit News most days, even though it’s a world away and it feels to me like a million years ago when I actually lived and worked in the Motor City. But old habits die hard and I need my daily news fix. What the current mayor was up to, how the Tigers were doing and whether they had a chance to go all the way again. Like 1968. Like 1984. The story about the hijacking on the runway caught my eye and I read the whole story, complete with local reaction, how futile it would be to try to stop these small airplanes from landing late at night. How you can’t turn off the automatic runway lights because God forbid an airplane would need to land in a legitimate emergency. How you can’t station somebody at every tiny backwoods airstrip twenty-four hours a day. How long and porous the border was between the States and Canada, and how this kind of smuggling has been going on in one form or another, dating all the way back to Prohibition.

That part was easy to understand. When you had a boat full of liquor coming across the lake, you took your chances that hijackers might be waiting for you. Now it was indoor-grown hydroponic marijuana, at which apparently the Canadians are just as handy as they were for producing those bottles of Old Cabin Whiskey back in the day. Now it was an airplane instead of a wooden motorboat. But the basic idea was the same.

It was the kind of story that made me think back to my own days as a police officer, how it sometimes felt like I was the little Dutch boy trying to plug the hole in the dike. That’s really as much as I thought about it. It was an interesting story, but I forgot about it five minutes after I folded up the paper and had my second cold Molson. How it could have any effect on me or on anybody I knew, that was something I wouldn’t have been able to imagine, even if I had known enough to try.

I had no idea that this incident on a lonely runway three hundred miles away would mark the beginning of that strange roller coaster of a summer for me. But looking back on it now, that was Event Number One.

Event Number Two? That was an Ojibwa funeral.


Copyright © 2012 by Steve Hamilton

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Die a Stranger: An Alex McKnight Novel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
The newest novel in the wonderful Alex McKnight series by Steve Hamilton starts out, as do most of them, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The residents of the area, referred to as the “land of the Yoopers,” consist heavily of Native Americans, most of them living in the reservations in that part of the country. As the book opens, Vinnie Red Sky LeBlanc, an Ojibwa Indian who is probably Alex’ best friend, is mourning the death of his mother, a legend on the “rez.” Alex, a former cop from Detroit, has been living for years in the town of Paradise, where his father had built several cabins for rental to hunters and winter recreationers, lives in one of those cabins, just down the road from Vinnie, had moved off the rez years before. Much is made of the clannish nature of the folks on the rez, and how difficult it is for ‘outsiders’ to be trusted. Vinnie has never been allowed to forget that he is now an outsider, just as he has never forgotten that his father had left thirty years before, the same father apparently still in prison for a vehicular manslaughter/drunk driving incident.many years ago, the reason Vinnie himself never drinks. At the same time, at a little airport three hundred miles away, an event occurs that will effect their lives and those of several others when a small plane holding large quantities of high-grade marijuana lands, precipitating a hijacking which ends with several dead bodies left on the field, only one man making it out alive. Both Alex and Vinnie become deeply involved in the aftermath: Vinnie disappears, and Alex is determined to find him and to discover how he what part, if any, he played in this. The Upper Peninsula is again brought vividly to life by this author who, along with fellow Yooper William Kent Krueger, seems to completely “own” this part of the United States, just below the Canadian border, in their fictional endeavors. Mr. Hamilton’s description, in part: “It may be July, and it may feel like summer just got here, but the end is already on its way. The cold, the snow, the ice, the natural basic state of this place, it is right around the corner. . . It was another goddamned beautiful useless day in Paradise.” The book veers south to perhaps a lesser-known part of the State apparently called Michigan’s Gold Coast, with towns such a Petoskey and Charlevoix where one soon feels “like you’re in the middle of Times Square,” also beautifully evoked. This is another terrific entry in the series, beautifully written, as usual, with a somewhat intricate, suspenseful plot and wonderfully drawn characters, and it is highly recommended.
corvettemary More than 1 year ago
The Alex McKnight series books are full of twists & turns. By the 2nd book you feel like you know him personally. Steve Hamilton does an awesome job!! Gotta read these books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was great
vandyacnp More than 1 year ago
A must read if you like the McKnight Series.
cate-k More than 1 year ago
Another winner from Steve Hamilton, with his Alex McKnight series. It's always interesting when Alex gets involved in his "cases" . He is like a dog with a bone and will not let go until he's got all the answers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of his best
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I so look forward to the next book in this series, as I always know it will be enjoyable and well written. This one was just a jewel, thank you Mr Hamilton
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I always look forward to my visits with Alex McKnight on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This visit focuses on the father of Alex's friend, Vinnie LeBlanc. The father has returned home after serving several years in prison. Then Vinnie disappears and the rest of the book is about the search Alex and the father conduct for Vinnie and his cousin, who also has vanished. The ending will leave all readers with deeply conflicting emotions - everything from horror to grudging acceptance.
glauver More than 1 year ago
ThiThis is the kind of story that could have been a 40s movie with Bogie or Mitchum playing the lead. Yes, there are cell phones, jet skis, and marijuana but the plot is from that era. Hamilton's main weakness is that his hero is not a cop or PI but is always doing favors for or assisting a friend. McKnight seems to be accidentally stumble into every crime in Northern Michigan. Hamilton's terse prose reminds me of Hammett.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like all in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all the books in the Alex McKnight series. This one moves a little slow but all-in-all it is very entertaining. I recommend it.
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Mikeeman More than 1 year ago
Terrible tale thats all over the place with unplausible situations and .at all too many, times,boring narrative.My one and only experience with Mr. Mcknight. It's one of those novels you struggle through and look forward to finishing so you can read something better.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Latest Alex McNight novel is gripping and moves right along - ending is exciting and ties the story nicely together
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