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NIGHT WORK
by Steve Hamilton
Orion, March 2008
320 pages
9.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752885944

It's been two years since juvenile probation officer Joe Trumbull's fiancee, Laurel, was strangled to death. He's been wallowing in grief ever since. On an intellectual level, he knows he needs to move on; on an emotional level, he's finding it difficult. He finally gets up the nerve to go on a blind date with a jewelry designer named Marlene who is new to the area. It starts out badly but then turns around. For the first time in a long time, he feels alive. His happiness is short lived. Shortly after their date, Marlene is murdered as well. And worse yet, she has been strangled.

Naturally, when the police discover the links between Laurel's and Marlene's deaths, Joe becomes a person of interest. Although they don't charge him with the murders, they grill him relentlessly and seem to be building a case against him. He knows he needs to do what he can to uncover the truth. He's considering the possibility that one of his probation cases has a grudge against him. As he begins to interrogate some people who can possibly help him, more murders occur, with the commonality between them being that each person had interacted with Joe.

There are a lot of little details about the evidence from the various murders that Joe cannot explain. It appears that the tie he was wearing on the blind date was used as a murder weapon. Another death used his shoelaces. Hamilton ratchets up the suspense to unbearable levels as he plants the seeds of doubt about Joe's veracity. The book's pacing was tremendous; I found myself gobbling up the pages and reluctantly viewing Joe as the prime suspect.

And then the plot fell apart. As Joe races to save another potential victim, it becomes clear exactly what was going on with all of the murders. The explanation of the killer's motivations and actions was completely unconvincing, verging on preposterous. And parts of it flat out didn't make any sense why would the murderer kill someone Joe had spoken with for three minutes but not the wife of his best friend, with whom he had a long and intimate friendship?

Hamilton is one of my very favorite writers, and I am a huge fan of his Alex McKnight series. I was really looking forward to this standalone work. It held such promise for the first two-thirds of the book. The lead character was achingly and sympathetically drawn. Between his love for his fiancee and his devotion to a difficult job, I had to believe in his innocence. Despite the fact that Hamilton excels at creating setting and building tension, the plot didn't hold up. What a disappointment to see it fall apart in its resolution.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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