Review of “Exit Strategy” by Steve Hamilton

This well-constructed thriller will have your adrenaline pumping from the very beginning. This is apparently the second in a series about Nick Mason, and I did not read the first, but had no trouble catching on.

Nick Mason had been incarcerated for felony murder when a fellow robbery conspirator killed someone while the robbery was being committed. Mason got released from federal prison in Terre Haute after serving five and a half years, thanks to an unwritten contract he made with a very powerful prisoner, Darius Cole. Cole orchestrated Mason’s release so Mason could work for him on the outside. For getting his life back (in a way), Mason agreed to be on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to do whatever was asked of him, “no matter what it was.”

In essence, and in spite of being opposed to murder, Mason became Cole’s “angel of death,” performing executions of those Cole wanted eliminated. But, “…even though Mason killed people, complete strangers, he lived by a code: No innocent victims.”

Another of Cole’s “employees,” Marcus Quintero, provides Mason with his assignments and the weaponry to carry it out. In the first operation we read about as the book opens, Mason has to get through between ten and twelve “high-end guys” to get to the target. This is considered to be not a problem for Mason, even though he was not an assassin prior to his conviction for robbery.

This target, as well as the second assigned to Mason, is set to testify against Cole in his upcoming retrial. Cole has no intention of letting these potential witnesses live to do that, in spite of their being very heavily protected. Somehow, with all Cole’s connections on the outside, he manages to find out where these men are and exactly how they are guarded. He also has a bead on every aspect of Mason’s life in order to keep Mason under his thumb. So, for example, when Mason is sent out on a job, if he doesn’t do what he has been told to do, Mason understands that Quintero’s job is to go take out Mason’s ex-wife and daughter, both of whom are the most important people in Mason’s life. It was to continue to see them and to protect them that Mason made the deal with Cole and continues to honor it.

Nevertheless, Mason keeps trying to come up with an “exit strategy” to get himself out of this situation. Cole’s tentacles are pretty deep, however, more so than Mason had imagined possible.

Discussion: This book has excellent discussions of the legal issues surrounding Cole’s retrial, and a fun look at the culture of Southside Irish Chicago. Hamilton is also to be commended for integrating into his story some important aspects of policing in Chicago, such as the much maligned honor code and the notorious secret detention and interrogation site at Homan Square.

Homan Square

But Cole’s success at infiltration and compromising people seems a little improbable, as does Mason’s success as an assassin against huge odds. Nevertheless, it makes for exciting reading.

Hamilton is also very good at making a killer (Nick Mason) sympathetic. This aspect helps offset the gritty, dark, and violent aspects of the story.

Evaluation: This thriller will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rating: 3.5/5

Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2017

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5 Responses to Review of “Exit Strategy” by Steve Hamilton

  1. Beth F says:

    This one sounds like you really get a feel for Chicago (or at least certain parts of it) along with the thriller plot.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I love books like this but don’t read them very often for some strange reason.

  3. epkwrsmith says:

    Very interesting…I kept thinking of Darkly Dreaming Dexter…no innocent victims, I think.

  4. I forgot about Steve Hamilton. I read one of his books a number of years ago. And liked it. But I haven’t made any effort to read others.

  5. stacybuckeye says:

    Just added the first book t my wishlist. Just because I can’t add the second book without having read the first. I’ve got a problem.

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