Hamilton, Steve. 2016. The Second Life of Nick Mason.New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons. ISBN: 978-0399574320. $26.00 USD.
The controversy surrounding this new novel by Steve Hamilton caught my eye months ago, and based on the description of the book, I was intrigued. Mr. Hamilton left his publisher of 17 years and moved to G.P. Putnam after making a statement that he wasn’t well treated by St. Martin’s Press, causing an extended delay in publishing the first title in his new series, The Second Life of Nick Mason. I was happy when the book came in, and since I’m a librarian, I had one of the first holds – a secret perk of working in a library!
Nick Mason was a thief, a very good one who partnered with some childhood friends, primarily stealing cars. But he changed his ways after wanting to settle down with his wife and child, and tried to “go straight.” He is reluctantly drawn back into one last job, where, unfortunately a DEA agent was killed. He refused to implicate his friends and was sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison. After 5 years of keeping his head down and avoiding trouble, he is approached by a fellow inmate named Cole who wields a tremendous amount of power, both in and out of prison. And Nick makes a devil’s bargain for the opportunity to get to know his daughter, who he hasn’t seen since he was imprisoned. His sentence is vacated in exchange for some future unnamed favors for Cole, and he finds himself free, twenty years earlier than expected.
At first, his life is a dream: a mansion to live in, classic cars to drive and a beautiful roommate, all the property of the devilish Cole. He tries to reestablish a relationship with his daughter, but his ex-wife has remarried and doesn’t want anything to do with Nick. And one of the former police investigators of the case, Sandoval, is extremely suspicious of Nick’s early release and has Nick on his radar.
All these elements seem to be a great mix for an excellent thriller. But…it just doesn’t really work. The characters are rather flat and underdeveloped, the money/mansion/cars/love interest are unrealistic. And when the phone rings, and Nick finds out he is required to become an assassin for Cole, and does, I kind of lost respect for this character. It’s supposed to the first in a series, and I won’t give away the ending, but suffice it to say, that the devil’s bargain won’t be paid anytime soon.
This novel was snatched up by Lionsgate, and I have to say, it will probably make a good film, along the lines of Taken or The Equalizer. But a book is supposed to be better than the movie, and in this case, I doubt that will end up being true. This novel was almost universally praised by many well-known authors and professional media, so please take my review with a grain of salt. I read a lot of books, and some I just enjoy more than others - like any book-lover!