What happens to you when you finish a ten-year career as an Army Ranger, but can't return to your previous life as a thief? Van Shaw is caught in limbo in Glen Erik Hamilton's second crime novel, Hard Cold Winter.
Van is hoping to find a job in which he can use his skills, but, while he waits, he agrees to help one of his grandfather's old friends. He finds Willard running a moving card game with a bar, young men with money, and thugs, including members of the Russian mob. But, Willard's concern is for his granddaughter, Elana Coll. The young woman headed to a cabin in the Olympic mountains with her boyfriend, and Willard hasn't heard from her.
It seems a simple enough job for an Army Ranger. But, once Van hikes to the cabin, he finds a grisly scene, grisly even for a man who has seen what he has in Afghanistan. Although Van finds two bodies, Willard tells him to let it go. But, Van feels he owes Elana for what she paid in their teen years in Seattle. If a few people are upset Van's asking questions, he really doesn't care what an ex-cop, a high-priced attorney, and some thugs think. Even when his relationship with his bartender girlfriend is threatened, Van is determined to discover why two people were killed in the woods.
Hard Cold Winter follows the success of Hamilton's debut, Past Crimes, an Edgar nominee for Best First Novel. The plot seems a little shaky, as if the author doesn't yet know what to do with Van Shaw out of the Army. And, in fact, Shaw doesn't yet know what to do with himself. Hamilton excels at characters. Every one of the characters comes alive on the page, particularly Van and his Army buddy, Leo. Both men suffer some PTSD, have trouble sleeping. Van's dreams are vivid reminders of the past, and seem to him to be signs of the future. And, Van's troubles affect his relationship with his girlfriend as well. "Luce thinks I might be some kind of war junkie. Only really myself when things are tight."
"Only really myself when things are tight." Those words are harbingers of the future for Van Shaw, this series, and the reader. As Hamilton continues to develop the characters, Van, Leo, and Van's neighbor, a wonderful woman named Addy Proctor, this series will only continue to get better. It's going to be fascinating to see the direction author Hamilton takes Van Shaw. With Shaw's past history, his intelligence, and his determination, readers have another white knight to root for. Past Crimes and Hard Cold Winter are promises of outstanding crime novels to come.
Glen Erik Hamilton's website is www.glenerikhamilton.com
Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton. William Morrow. 2016. ISBN 9780062344588 (hardcover), 308p.
FTC Full Disclosure - I bought my copy of the book.