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Night Work    by Steve Hamilton order for
Night Work
by Steve Hamilton
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Joe Trumbull's life is shattered when his fiancée is brutally murdered only days before their wedding. His months away from his job as a juvenile parole officer do little to assuage his guilt or the feelings of gloom that follow him everywhere. Determined to shake free of everything associated with his beloved Laurel, he moves into a cramped apartment over a friend's gym and takes up boxing to work through his emotional issues. Two years later, Joe decides to give dating another try. After a rocky start, he and the beautiful and sympathetic Marlene Frost find an easy camaraderie that leaves Joe hopeful, and eager to pursue their fledgling relationship. But when he's visited by the police the next day with the shocking news that Marlene's been murdered - and that he's the prime suspect - his life takes yet another dark turn.

His problems are compounded by the two state detectives called in to investigate. One of them seems almost rabidly convinced that Joe's guilty as sin, given the fact that his tie was found wrapped around Marlene's neck. Though Joe maintains that someone has set him up, the detectives aren't convinced especially since Joe is unable to point them in the direction of a single credible suspect. When more women turn up dead, all of them somehow connected to Joe, he feels the noose inexorably tightening around his own neck. He knows it's only a matter of time before his anonymous enemy springs the final trap, so in quiet desperation, he begins an investigation of his own.

While this stand-alone story is not as deftly plotted as Hamilton's marvelous Alex McKnight series, his knack for characterizations adds polish to this tale. In Joe Trumbull, he's created another appealing and completely sympathetic protagonist, a man who's gone through personal hell and is trying to break free of crushing loneliness and find some normalcy. Hamilton also does a great job with secondary characterizations, and provides believable red herrings. Unfortunately, the story loses punch when Joe finally connects some of the dots and then makes questionable decisions in his quest to clear himself. As a whole though, Night Work is another vintage Steve Hamilton, a gripping story that will leave fans hoping he'll give Joe another opportunity to sort out his life.

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