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EXIT STRATEGY
by Steve Hamilton
GP Putnam's Sons, May 2017
289 pages
$26.00
ISBN: 0399574387


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Nick Mason has traded twenty years in a maximum security prison for a prison of a totally different kind: he is basically a slave for Darius Cole and his job consists mostly of killing people Darius Cole wants dead. Nick has a fabulous apartment, always has a cool car, whatever weapons he needs, and plenty of money. The down side is fairly obvious. He can't see his ex-wife and daughter whenever he'd like to. He can't take a vacation. If he screws up, he's probably not the first one who will die because of it. As one might suspect, Nick wants out. Breaking a deal with Darius Cole is not a good idea.

Darius has finagled a new trial, based on an obscure legal technicality. Nick's most recent assignments involve killing the two main witnesses against Darius. Doing this is not easy, and Nick doesn't come out unscathed. The Feds are after him, as is a local detective who wants Nick to make a deal that will put Darius away for good and all.

There are other complications. Nick's ex-wife has remarried and they are contemplating a move to Denver. Nick's desire to be free of Darius places his new girl friend in harm's way. And then things start to get really complex. Nick is out of his element in many ways and struggles to maintain what little moral code he has left. It's not easy.

Hamilton has written a well-plotted and very suspenseful novel. His characters live and breathe; their fears are very real and easy to believe. Chicago is a great city. Hamilton treats it with the casual love (and hate) of one who knows it well. Nick is a complicated man who makes difficult choices. Not all of them are wise in the long run but the reader can understand why the choice was made. This makes Nick somewhat likeable, although not as much as in the first book. This is the closest thing to Chicago Noir that Hamilton has written to date. He's very good at it. If, as one person commented, the Nick Mason character was not a nice guy in SECOND LIFE, don't bother reading this - you won't like it. If good writing what is required, dive on in.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs. My Sherlockian (BSI) nom-de-plume is VR; my license plate is BSI VR

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, May 2017

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