Title: Past Crimes
Author: Glen Erik Hamilton
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: 3 March 2015
Come home, if you can…
For fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro, an unputdownable series debut, from a thrilling new voice in American crime writing.
If my grandfather’s letter had stopped at the comma, I would have tossed it in the trash … only the last three words mattered. If you can. That passed for please, in the old man’s way of talking … If you can scared me a little.
Meet Van Shaw – soldier, ex-con – as he returns to his native Seattle after a decade’s self-imposed exile. Answering voices from his past, he finds a whole heap of trouble, and himself the prime suspect in the brutal attack on his grandfather. Drawn back into the violent, high-stakes life he tried to leave behind, he has to try and see right from wrong amid the secrets and resentments of those he was once closest to.
A couple of months ago I came across Glen Erik Hamilton when I picked up his latest book Hard Cold Winter. I thoroughly enjoyed that book and ever since I have been waiting for the opportunity to go back and read Hamilton’s first book Past Crimes. I had super high expectations considering I loved the sequel and this book was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best First Novel but I can definitely say it smashed those expectations.
Past Crimes is the first novel by Glen Erik Hamilton featuring ex-thief and soldier Van Shaw. Van Shaw returns home to Seattle for the first time in ten years when he receives a letter from his estranged grandfather asking him to return. As he walks in the front door of his childhood home, he finds his grandfather has just been shot and considering the circumstances, he is the number suspect. Van makes it his mission to figure out who shot Dono and quickly finds out that he may not have left his former criminal life.
It felt a little bit weird reading this book because I had already read the second book in the series and that slightly spoiled the story here, but having said that I am glad I did read Past Crimes because it is not only a great read but it also helps understand the main character Van Shaw a lot more. I have said many times that I am always on the lockout for books with a similar tone and feel to Jack Reacher and Past Crimes definitely ticks that box. It perfectly combines action, mystery and great characters to create a story that I just want to pick up and read again.
The plot of the book is great. The general idea is nothing new, the ‘outsider’ coming back into town and getting wrapped up in a crime, but Hamilton writes it in such a way that it feels fresh. I especially liked the fact that the story felt deeper than most other books in the genre without becoming boring or slow. Most books in the genre rely on a simple mystery and lots of action to engage readers, but Past Crimes is more than that. The story not only sucks you in, but it makes you feel.
The other major factor that makes this book so good is the characters. Hamilton is great at developing characters that engaging and relatable. Van Shaw is fast becoming one of my favourite characters in the genre as he has a lot more depth to his character, yet he is still bad-ass. I also liked that Hamilton is able to take a bunch of criminals like Dono, Hollis and Willard and make them so likable that you don’t really realise that they’re pretty shady people.
All in all, Lee Child’s quote on the front cover perfectly sums up this book for me. I definitely agree that Glen Erik Hamilton has hit “a home run off the first pitch” with Past Crimes. It is a great read with an engaging story, lots of action and a cool set of characters that really doesn’t feel like a first novel at all. And the best thing is that despite how good this book is, the second one is even better, so I cannot wait to see what Hamilton has in store with the third book.
Worth a read? If you’re looking for a Jack Reacher style of novel with a deeper, more engaging story then don’t go past Glen Erik Hamilton’s Past Crimes. It is a thrilling debut novel featuring a character that is up with the likes of Reacher and a thrilling, yet relatable plot.