Hard Cold Winter
A Van Shaw novel by Glen Erik Hamilton
Book review by Jules Brenner
Wm. Morrow, released 3/8/16, 320 pp., $25.99
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Not your typical noir but this "sophomore" (as the author puts it) followup to his debut book, "Past Crimes," takes us into a deep mystery with an empathetic protagonist on a journey to find a missing girl and finding terrible evil in a remote cabin in the Olympic Mountain woods.

Van Shaw, recently mustered out of the Army Rangers and returned to Seattle, WA, where he grew up, is looking for work while barely keeping his nightmares under control. As we soon learn, one of the features of Hamilton's story is the vivid memory of the elders of his characters' families, and their influence on making them who they were. Van, at least, is struggling against his criminal pedigree.

When he goes to visit the hulking Will Willard, his dead hard-ass grandfather's accomplice back when Willard was like family, he finds the big guy operating a mobile underground bar and gaming parlor for a rough clientele. Typical among the types warming the stools would be Reuben Kuznetsov, the eldest son of a Bratva crime boss who recognizes Van, and they have a few words about Van's return.

But Willard is in a state of fear and agitation. His beloved (and beautiful) niece Elana, who's been working for him since she was 14, hasn't been heard from since she took off with her playboy boyfriend Kendrick Haymes to a business rendezvous in a remote mountain cabin. Hasn't heard from her, can't reach her and he can't leave his business to go look for her. So he offers Van a grand to play detective.

The ex-Ranger, needing income, is more than ready to jump in and calm the old mobster's fears. But neither man can foresee what Van's stepping into. After a difficult trek he finds the place but has to deal with an incredible problem outside the cabin. He finally enters and finds a scene far worse. Elana and Kendrick brutally murdered. A death scene that shocks him back to the traumas he's been trying to forget.

So this is when Leo shows up on his doorstep. Leo, a fellow ranger from Van's Afghanistan unit, needs the kind of help ony his former military commander can provide, making Van obliged to invite his troubled pard to hang out. Though Leo's PTSD goes deeper than Van's, and Van's girlfriend Luce would have advised differentl.

But, it's a two-edged sword. Van will be glad for his buddy's keen observation, training and backup when the odds of one man coming out alive in a fight against the kind of enemies he is soon to confront are so low.

Suspense builds until Van realizes the scope and deadliness of a madman's plot... and the clock is ticking.

The pleasure of the read comes from an edgy but sympathetic protagonist with a checkered past and the author's military experience an authoritative voice transferring a case of terrorism to a homeshore setting. It bodes well for a writer set on creating suspenseful and dimensional writing.

If you don't yet own Hard Cold Winter and would like to purchase it (usually at a sizable discount), click here.