Book review: Hamilton’s Nick Mason could stay original, or not

There is much to love about Exit Strategy. For one, Don Winslow recommends Steve Hamilton’s first Nick Mason outing, The Second Life of Nick Mason. Another reason, it is in the same vein as a Hammett or Chandler novel. Mason has that code we love in our protagonists. For instance, he tries not to kill unless absolutely necessary. In Exit Strategy, he does not refer to his personal code as much as in the first book, which means he speaks more (or at least it feels that way).

Certain plot twists in Exit Strategy mean that Hamilton is deviating from the formulaic version of the hardboiled crime novel. In The Second Life of Nick Mason, there is the backstory, which always entertains me more than the present-day adventures. In Exit Strategy, there is more of everything you love, but there is also some repetition.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and it has led me to the Alex McKnight series, but I think I see Hamilton’s options: more of the same (à la Lee Child and Jack Reacher); or a whole new continent with a new set of rules and characters. Hammett was the master – in part – because he created one-off characters. He wrote only one novel with Sam Spade; and it was Hollywood that created the Nick and Nora Charles franchise (in radio dramas and films).

Throughout history (starting with Dickens), readers have devoured serials with a certain fanaticism, but the writer who stands out is the one who does not follow the easy path. Time will tell which route Nick Mason takes.

Michael Jabri-Pickett Speechwriter • Editor • Journalist