A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton- Feature and Review


Nick Mason has already spent five years inside a maximum security prison when an offer comes that will grant his release twenty years early.  He accepts -- but the deal comes with a terrible price.

Now, back on the streets, Nick Mason has a new house, a new car, money to burn, and a beautiful roommate.  He’s returned to society, but he's still a prisoner.  Whenever his cell phone rings, day or night, Nick must answer it and follow whatever order he is given.  It’s the deal he made with Darius Cole, a criminal mastermind serving a double-life term who runs an empire from his prison cell.

Forced to commit increasingly more dangerous crimes, hunted by the relentless detective who put him behind bars, and desperate to go straight and rebuild his life with his daughter and ex-wife, Nick will ultimately have to risk everything—his family, his sanity, and even his life—to finally break free.


Nick Mason's freedom lasted less than a minute.


The Second Life of Nick Mason (Nick Mason, #1)The Second Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Life of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton is a 2016 G.P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

I’m always curious when an author steps away from his bread and butter series and starts a new one or writes a stand alone. I know Steve Hamilton from his Alex McKnight series, which is very enjoyable, so I felt confident the author would meet those standards no matter how far off the beaten path this story was by comparison.

Nick Mason receives a ‘get out of jail free’ card, but it comes with a hefty price. Five years ago, Nick was sentenced to a twenty-five year prison sentence. He soon finds he has been singled out by a long timer, Darius Cole, who runs a thriving business outside the prison walls, in Chicago. Darius needs someone on the outside to do his bidding and feels Nick is the best man for the job.

Suddenly, Nick finds his conviction overturned and his freedom restored. Not only that, he’s been provided with a plush Lincoln Park apartment, a nice car, and a big fat wad of cash which is replenished on a monthly basis. The catch? He must do whatever he is told, when he’s told to do it. When his phone rings, he must obey and perform the task assigned to him, no questions asked…

I don’t know why I was under the impression this was a stand alone novel, but it would appear it is the first book in a series.

Nick is one of those anti-hero types, a man who tries to live a clean and straight life, but keeps getting sucked back into the criminal element, each time worse than the last. This time, despite the loathing he has for what he is being forced to do, he has no choice but to make the best of a bad situation.

I think Nick makes an interesting character study, and is a person you feel bad for and even like, but who also commits horrible crimes, with only a modicum of remorse. The scenes with his daughter are especially poignant, but his attempts to lead a regular life are futile, even though he continues to delude himself into thinking he can still pull it off.

The Chicago setting is perfect for this stylish crime novel that employees a slight noir atmosphere, and is packed with nefarious characters from both sides of the law. There is plenty of action, violence, emotional conflict, and even a little romance, to cap things off, although this part felt slightly forced.

It’s too soon to tell how well the series will develop from here on out.  I feel this series has a vast amount of promise, but, it will all hinge on that all important second book. As it stands right now, based on the momentum of this book, it could go either way.

Overall, this is a pretty big departure from the Alex McKnight series and fans of this author may be a bit surprised by it, but if approached with an open mind, I think you’ll find this is a pretty interesting crime drama, and I do recommend giving it a try.





Steve Hamilton is one of the most acclaimed mystery writers in the world, and one of only two authors (along with Ross Thomas) to win Edgars for both Best First Novel and Best Novel. His Alex McKnight series includes two New York Times notable books, and he’s put two recent titles on the New York Times bestseller list. He’s either won or received multiple nominations for virtually every other crime fiction award in the business, from the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award to the Anthony to the Barry to the Gumshoe. But it was his standalone The Lock Artist that made publishing history, his first book to win an Edgar for Best Novel, a CWA Steel Dagger for Best Thriller in the UK, and an Alex Award – which is given out by the American Library Association to those books that successfully cross over from the adult market and appeal to young adult readers. The Lock Artist has been translated into seventeen different languages, and was an especially strong seller in Japan, where it was voted the number one translated crime novel of 2012 by both the annual Kono Mystery Ga Sugoi guide and by Weekly Bunshun magazine.
Hamilton’s very first book, A Cold Day in Paradise, won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Award for Best First Mystery by an Unpublished Writer. After it was published, the novel went on to win the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best First Novel and the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Award for Best First Novel, the only first novel to win both awards. That book introduced Alex McKnight, an ex-cop now making a living renting cabins in the small town of Paradise in Michigan’s isolated Upper Peninsula, who becomes a reluctant private detective.
Hamilton’s second Alex McKnight novel, Winter of the Wolf Moon, was named one of the year’s Notable Books by The New York Times Book Review and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as did his next three novels, The Hunting Wind, North of Nowhere and Blood is the Sky (which won the 2004 Gumshoe Award). As of 2015 there are ten books in the Alex McKnight series.
Night Work is a departure from the Alex McKnight series, featuring instead a probation officer in upstate New York. Night Work was nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association top award, The Duncan Lawrie Dagger.
In 2006, Hamilton won the Michigan Author Award for his body of work.

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