Steve Hamilton has taken a break from his Alex
McKnight series to pen a stand-alone thriller. NIGHT WORK
introduces Joe Trumbull, an interesting, mildly quirky protagonist
who maybe is just a little off-putting. Trumbull is a Kingston, New
York juvenile probation officer by day and a boxing trainer by
night, though he doesn’t fight professionally; he merely uses
the training as a conditioner. Trumbull is a jazz aficionado
(Hamilton, by the way, has excellent and eclectic musical taste, if
Trumbull’s CD collection is any indication). Until recently,
Trumbull’s life had gone off the rails, as the result two
years earlier of the brutal, still-unsolved murder of Laurel
Harrington, his fiancee.
NIGHT WORK begins with Trumbull going out on a blind date, his
first since that tragedy. The woman is named Marlene Frost, and, as
we see her through Trumbull’s eyes, she is every guy’s
dream, helping him through the awkward moments, making the good
times better and ultimately making his evening memorable beyond any
reasonable expectation. Oh, and Frost is also heartbreakingly
beautiful. Trumbull feels as if his life is beginning anew, and
it’s all because of her.
Unfortunately, Trumbull is wrong. Before 24 hours have passed, his
life will become a nightmare unlike any he has ever experienced,
even when Laurel died. For the simple truth is that either someone,
somewhere, has a grudge against Trumbull for reasons he cannot even
begin to guess at, or he is a very sick and dangerous man.
There is a genuine mystery here, and I was back and forth
throughout the book as to who was doing what and to whom. Sometimes
with a mystery you can figure things out from the beginning and
enjoy the manner in which the author takes you down the road to
your destination. Nothing wrong with that, but Hamilton does not
take that approach here. There is a better than even chance that
things are exactly as they seem, and you’re well within
spitting distance of the conclusion before Hamilton lets you in on
what is going on.
Those who are disappointed that NIGHT WORK is not a McKnight novel
should not pass this one up. All of the reasons for reading the
McKnight series are in this book, but for one. Hamilton,
who could make a shopping list interesting and readable, scores
again, even with the different scenery.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011