Book review: Two Stars for Second Life

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second-life-of-nick-mason-steve-hamilton-review

Clever idea that got off track.

A Chicago mob boss in prison arranges for the release of a fellow inmate 5 years into a 25-year sentence to become his assassin on the outside.  Once free, Nick Mason, a former car thief, finds out that being released to kill people is worse than being in prison, even though his targets are mostly dirty cops.

It is an intriguing concept.  Quintero, Nick’s handler on the outside, tells Nick early on that freedom is different from mobility—don’t get the two confused.  Great line.  And it sums up the plot of the novel.  Nick is mobile because he left prison, and can basically go where he wants, but he’s on call 24/7 to carry out a hit.  The mob boss, Cole, controls Nick, and threatens his family if he tries to wiggle out of the 20-year deal.

However, for a man who had only stolen cars to become a cop killer almost overnight is tough to swallow.  He’s able to run circles around all of his targets and almost all of the other characters in the book.  Maybe if Nick made more mistakes, or had a somewhat darker past, it would be more plausible.

Just as easily as Nick becomes a master assassin, he proves himself to be quite the lady’s man, quickly meeting a woman who wants to know “what five years feels like.” Eh hmm.  Most of the female characters seem interested in either getting in bed with Nick, or with scolding him for ruining their lives in the past.  There’s not much middle ground.

While Nick is running around killing people, a homicide detective named Sandoval is on the trail of the corrupt cops.  The scenes involving Sandoval and the SIS, an elite police unit, are a bit complicated and tricky to follow.

I listened to the audiobook which was a mistake.  The narrator’s tone was extremely bitter in the first 20 percent of the book, which makes some sense because it is set in prison.  However, some lines that I would have read as factual commentary are dripping with venom in the audiobook.  In other words, the tone was overkill.  The mob boss’s voice sounds like a cross between Lucious Lyon from “Empire” and Barack Obama, which was distracting.  Each female character sounded identical, flippant, and naggy.  The narrator has great vocal talents but overall this narration didn’t work for me.

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