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Hard Cold Winter: A Van Shaw Novel


Hard Cold Winter: A Van Shaw Novel

I have been eagerly awaiting this follow-up to PAST CRIMES, an impressive debut novel by Glen Erik Hamilton that introduced Van Shaw to the literary world in what was one of 2015’s best novels. Van is both familiar and unique, an emotionally and physically scarred individual with a wide-ranging skill set acquired in the theater of war and criminal enterprises. HARD COLD WINTER meets and exceeds the quality bar that Hamilton set for himself with his first work, as Van engages in an off-the-books investigation in which his past and his present collide abruptly and explosively.

The book begins with Van back in Seattle, answering a call for help from Will Willard, an associate of Dono, Van’s late grandfather. Elana, Willard’s niece, has suddenly gone missing with Kendrick Haymes, her boyfriend. Van and Elana were friends in high school, and Willard was very much a helpful presence to Dono during the old thief’s last days. Willard points Van in the right direction, a snow-bound cabin on the outskirts of Seattle. What Van finds is a grisly tableau, an apparent murder-suicide that carries with it the worst possible news for Willard.

"The plot begins simply enough but becomes increasingly more complex. A lesser writer might have gotten his readers lost in the thicket, but Hamilton parcels out the elements of the plot gradually..."

The problems extend far beyond Willard, though. Kendrick was the heir to one of Seattle’s most influential families. His survivors are curious about what Van may have found at the murder scene and if he has it in his possession. The whole thing is a puzzle for Van, who feels duty-bound to dig into it. As we learn from the intermittent flashbacks scattered throughout the book, Van owed a long-unpaid debt to Elana, which requires that the bizarre murder that Van happened upon be laid to rest. Something simply isn’t right to Van, and he can’t let it go.

Meanwhile, another figure from Van’s past turns up. Leo Pak was one of the Rangers on his team in Afghanistan, and when he appears in Seattle, looking for help, the former Ranger sergeant can hardly refuse him. Leo, though troubled, is a help to Van as well. As Van proceeds with his investigation, however, he gathers a lot of seemingly disparate elements of information. Then, at a point a little more than halfway through the book, everything changes. Van makes a startling discovery that changes what he knows --- and doesn’t --- about the murder scene. It eventually becomes clear that his involvement in the matter may be more than an opportunity to repay an old obligation. Indeed, the future of thousands of people may well hang in the balance.

Believe me when I tell you that Hamilton is a heck of a storyteller. He has a masterful instinct for pacing, knowing when to slow things down and speed things up. The plot begins simply enough but becomes increasingly more complex. A lesser writer might have gotten his readers lost in the thicket, but Hamilton parcels out the elements of the plot gradually, giving his audience time to catch up on what’s going on. And while HARD COLD WINTER is complete in itself, one can see at the story’s end the possibility for the series to go in any number of directions, with one or more of the secondary characters who are still standing.

If Hamilton continues on his present trajectory --- and there is no evidence of anything to the contrary --- he should find himself on the must-read list of a multitude of readers. Jump on now.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on April 8, 2016

Hard Cold Winter: A Van Shaw Novel
by Glen Erik Hamilton

  • Publication Date: May 30, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062344595
  • ISBN-13: 9780062344595