(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky OCT 12, 2007)
“Just like that, it’s two years ago. To be exact, two years plus twenty-five days. In one second I can go back and feel it like it’s still happening, like that night lives in its own parallel universe where time stands still. A part of me is there always, living in that single span of darkness, the sun on the other side of the earth.”
In Night Work, Steve Hamilton introduces Joe Trumbull, a probation officer who lives and works in upstate New York. Joe is “part cop, part social worker, part guidance counselor, part rehab coordinator, part bounty hunter.” His job is multifaceted: he visits his clients’ homes and drags them out of bed, investigates their family lives, and writes up sentencing recommendations for the court. If he suggests probation and the judge agrees, then Joe tries to help his “knuckleheads,” mostly kids in need of supervision, to stay out of prison. Joe is “your official court-designated guardian angel.” He lives in a dumpy apartment above a gym, adores jazz, and dabbles in boxing.
Two years earlier, Joe’s fiancée, Laurel, was brutally murdered just days before their wedding. The case is still open. Lonely and afraid of staying that way, Joe puts a listing in a singles’ site and lands a blind date with a beautiful woman. In a humorous opening, Joe approaches his blind date as if he is facing his impending execution. Fortunately, he and his companion hit it off and, for the first time in a long while, Joe is looking forward to the future. Unfortunately, a series of unexpected and terrifying events follow that make Joe the prime suspect in a series of homicides. To clear his name, he will need to find the answer to a crucial question: Who hates him enough to want to destroy him?
Steve Hamilton made his reputation with the solid Alex McNight series, and although this thriller lacks the punch of Hamilton’s earlier books, it does have its strengths. Hamilton wisely sets his story in an offbeat location, Kingston, New York, and he gives his protagonist an occupation (probation officer) that is also a bit different. Joe is likeable enough, the writing is crisp and direct, and the mystery is fairly suspenseful. The only negative is that Night Work adheres too closely to the old formula: Nice guy tries to get over the unexplained murder of his fiancée. He suddenly finds himself on the run from the cops, who suspect him of being the killer. He must find the real perpetrator before the detectives take him into custody. We have seen this plot too many times before, and Hamilton does not provide enough variations on this theme to make his book stand out from the crowd.
- Amazon readers rating: from 26 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Night Work at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- A Cold Day in Paradise (1998) /
- Winter fo the Wolf Moon (2000)
- The Hunting Wind (2001)
- North of Nowhere (2002)
- Blood is the Sky (2003)
- Ice Run (2005)
- A Stolen Season (2006)
- Misery Bay (June 2011)
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- Official website for Steve Hamilton
- January Magazine on Steve Hamilton
- Mystery Ink interview with Steve Hamilton
- January Magazine review of North of Nowhere
- BookReporter.com review of Ice Run
- BookReporter.com review of A Stolen Season
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About the Author:
Steve Hamilton was born an raised in Detroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan where he won the prestigious Hopwood Award for fiction.
His novels have won numerous awards and media acclaim beginning with the very first in the Alex McKnight series, A Cold Day in Paradise, which won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin's Press Award for Best First Mystery by an Unpublished Writer. Once published, it went on to win the MWA Edgar and the PWA Shamus Awards for Best First Novel, and was short-listed for the Anthony and Barry Awards. In 2006, he won the Michigan Author Award for his outstanding body of work.
Hamilton currently works for IBM in upstate New York where he lives with his wife Julia and their two children. He writes late at night, after his family goes to bed.