Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: "The Second Life of Nick Mason" by Steve Hamilton

Five years ago, Nick Mason went to prison, expecting to serve a 25-year sentence. He tries to live day by day and stay out of trouble, and dreams of what his life used to be like with his ex-wife and his young daughter.

One day he is summoned by Darius Cole, a fellow inmate whose power within and outside the prison has never ceased despite the double-life sentence he is serving. He calls the shots and lives a fairly pampered existence, and he takes a liking to Nick because of his ability to keep to himself and stay even-tempered. It isn't long before Cole offers to make the rest of Nick's sentence disappear—for a price.

How could he refuse the chance to get out of prison while his daughter is still young, to be able to do what he pleases when he pleases, without having to watch his back? Nick is given a home in a posh Chicago neighborhood, fancy clothes, a classic sports car, and money to burn. But as you'd imagine, this freedom doesn't mean he's truly free—he is given a cell phone by one of Cole's associates, and whenever it rings, day or night, he must do whatever he's told to.

As Nick waits for his orders, he tries to visit his ex-wife and daughter, as well as one of the friends he protected the night things went wrong for them. But Nick's unexpected release doesn't sit well with everyone, including another one of his cohorts from the fateful night five years before, and the dogged police detective who arrested him and doesn't understand how he was able to regain his freedom. Nick would like to pursue a new relationship, but doesn't know if it's wise to involve someone else in his situation.

And when the orders come, it forces Nick to do things he'd never imagined, and it's not long before he realizes he's being used as a pawn in a battle where there are no good guys. He must decide whether to continue to follow the orders he is being given, or follow his conscience and put his life, his freedom, and those who loves in jeopardy. It's a no-win situation, and the stakes are getting progressively higher.

I don't know why Steve Hamilton isn't more famous. I think he's one of the best crime writers out there right now. His series with flawed Michigan private investigator Alex McKnight are absolutely fantastic, and the few stand-alone books he's written have been pretty tremendous as well. The Second Life of Nick Mason deserves to stand alongside his other books—Hamilton once again delivers crackling action, taut plot development, and some strong and memorable characters.

I believe I read that this book has been optioned for a film adaptation, and that doesn't surprise me. It reads like a movie, and I don't mean that in a disparaging way. If you've never read one of Hamilton's books before, and you're a crime fan, you can't go wrong with this one, the incredible The Lock Artist, or any one of his Alex McKnight books. Hopefully you'll see what the world hasn't quite seen yet—Steve Hamilton is a writer to be reckoned with.

First to Read and G.P. Putnam's Sons provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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