‘Night Work’ by Steve Hamilton
July 9, 2008 - 4:00 am
I had a running debate with myself as to whether or not to review Steve Hamilton’s newest piece of fiction, “Night Work.” I’m a big fan of his “Alex McKnight” novels, and if you haven’t read any of the books in this series, you owe it to yourself to check them out.
“Night Work,” however, is a stand-alone novel. I actually enjoyed it right up until the last 25 pages or so, and then I found myself shaking my head in disbelief and skimming over the last few pages. Some readers may not have a problem with the ending, but I certainly did. It just wasn’t what I expected or was hoping for.
The story deals with probation officer Joe Trumbull, whose job it is to determine if a teenager convicted of a crime should be placed in prison or kept on probation until the sentence is carried out. His recommendation to the judge can make or break a person’s life. Joe loves his job and tries to save as many of the kids from prison as he possibly can. A few, however, always manage to slip through cracks and he inevitably blames himself for it.
For the last two years, Joe has been dealing with the murder of his fiancee and the fact that the killer was never caught. Everything comes to a head when he finally decides to put the tragedy behind him and to start dating again. Unfortunately, the new woman in his life is murdered on the night after their first get-together. This throws Joe into a state of shock as he attempts to cope with the unexpected event. The good news is that he’s not initially a suspect. The bad news is that when the next woman he comes into contact with is suddenly murdered, the state police start taking a closer look at him, especially when the killer uses Joe’s tie and shoelaces as the murder weapons. The killer has been extremely patient over the years, and he’s smart enough to know how to set up our probation officer as the perfect suspect for the crimes. For Joe, time is running out. He has to find the murderer before the police arrest him and throw away the key.
As I said, the novel hooked me at the beginning and held my interest right up until the last few pages. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to buy into the resolution and what was done to Joe by the killer or killers.
Other than that, the book was excellent in my opinion. Hamilton certainly knows how to write like a pro, create compelling characters, realistic settings, and complex plots that race forward with an unbelievable velocity.
I have to say, however, that though “Night Work” is a good summer read, I’m anxiously awaiting the next “Alex McKnight” novel, which may be a few years down the road.