The Second Life of Nick Mason

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This book really has some big guns writing laudatory blurbs: Harlen Coben (front cover), Steven King, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Don Winslow (back cover). Makes you wonder what the author, Steve Hamilton, has on those guys.

But never mind that. Mr. Hamilton takes a break here from his series character Alex McKnight, and tells the story of (surprise) Nick Mason. As the book opens, Nick's getting out of the high-security United States Penitentiary Terre Haute, where he was serving a long sentence. Which has been overturned. Yay, right?

Wrong. Because the release was arranged by a powerful Chicago crime boss, Darius Cole, who sees Nick as sort of a ninja he can groom to be a warrior for his continued dominance over the city's organized crime scene. All Nick really wants to do is reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter, live some sort of straight life. But Darius demands loyalty and obedience, which involves Nick perpetrating some more crimes. And trying not to get caught or killed.

It's a convoluted tale of criminals and dirty cops. A page-turner, no question. But the whole sub-genre of "guy gets out of jail only to get involved in a lot of violent mayhem" is pretty well-travelled. (Remember Jim Thompson's The Getaway? 1959.)

If I had a further quibble, it would be overuse of the f-word, which seems to be Mr. Hamilton's way of indicating that his dialog and the characters' inner monologues are gritty and realistic.