Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Second Life in the Second City Nick Mason Is Back and Looking for a Way Out

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Second Life in the Second City Nick Mason Is Back and Looking for a Way Out

Article excerpt

Crime thriller writer Steve Hamilton must load his pen with testosterone instead of ink. Last year, Mr. Hamilton released "The Second Life of Nick Mason," and now that lethal but lovable manly character has returned in "Exit Strategy."

Early in "Exit Strategy," readers learn of Nick's unique dilemma. He was serving a long prison sentence for his part in a felony murder (taking the fall for his best friend) until kingpin inmate, Darius Cole, got Nick out by compromising a detective.

In exchange for his freedom, Nick must do anything Cole or his henchmen ask. If he doesn't comply, Nick's ex-wife and daughter will be harmed: "You fail, they die," he's told.

"The Second Life" was a nice mix of action and creatively crafted descriptions. In "Exit Strategy," however, Mr. Hamilton has left out the writerly language and intensified the choreography of violence he renders so well. The story sometimes reads like a screenplay waiting to happen.

What has been added this time is a lot of information about legal maneuvers used over the years to defend a variety of mobsters. The spark igniting "Exit Strategy" is that 12 years after his conviction, Darius Cole is about to get a retrial. Although Mr. Hamilton explains why this was able to happen, readers may need to hire a lawyer in order to really understand the legal strategy.

There's something about retroactive jury tampering, or maybe it's because of the Scarpa Defense, which says that if an informant keeps committing crimes after he signs a cooperating witness agreement, then every piece of evidence he collected is worthless.

Whatever the circumstances, once Cole knows he has another chance in the courtroom, he sets his secret weapon in motion to wipe out anyone who could testify against him. That secret weapon is Nick.

"Exit Strategy" begins with Nick breaking into the awesome 87-story Chicago apartment tower called The Aqua. …

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