Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

In Exit Strategy, Steve Hamilton has created a dynamite followup to The Second Life of Nick Mason which introduced us to the titular hero.

Nick Mason traded his life to criminal kingpin Darius Cole in exchange for his freedom. The freedom to see his family, an ex-wife and a young daughter. Now, whenever Nick’s phone rings, he must do Cole’s bidding with no questions asked. In The Second Life of Nick Mason, Mason learns he has traded one cage for another. In Exit Strategy, Nick must keep doing increasingly dangerous jobs, including killing the people in witness protection who stand between Darius Cole and freedom.

Exit Strategy starts with a bang, literally, as Nick finds himself sent to gun down one of the witnesses from Darius Cole’s trial who is back in Chicago in preparation to testify again at the retrial. Nick must continue to perform his tasks while searching for a way out of his seemingly impossible predicament. Each step seems to take him further away from the man he thought he was. His latest task sets him on a collision course with a dangerous assassin: the man he replaced in Cole’s organization.

The first Nick Mason book gives us some background on how Nick came to be in his current predicament and what he was willing to trade to see his family again. In this book, the action leaps off the page from the very beginning and continues at a breakneck pace all the way to the end. Nick has to compromise his morals to the point where it’s unclear they still exist. What is clear is that failure to follow Cole’s instructions place the lives of his family in jeopardy, as well as anyone else who is close to him. Nick is placed in the impossible situation of helping Cole win his freedom, which will only put Nick further under Cole’s thumb.

Hamilton does a great job of keeping the action moving from beginning to end. He never lets you feel comfortable that anyone is safe and the surprises keep coming all the way to the end. This is turning into a really good series and Nick Mason is a great creation. I can’t wait to read the next one. Highly recommended.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Description: Nick Mason has been given a true mission impossible: Infiltrate WITSEC, the top-secret federal witness-protection program that has never been compromised, locate the three men who put his boss Darius Cole behind bars for life, and kill them.

But first he has to find them—they’re ghost prisoners locked down around the clock in classified “deep black” locations by a battalion of heavily armed U.S. marshals charged with protecting them—and the clock is ticking. Cole is appealing his conviction, and these witnesses are either his ticket to freedom or the final nail in his coffin. If they testify, Darius Cole will never step foot in the outside world again. If they are killed, he will walk out a free man.  

As he risks everything to complete his mission, Mason finds himself being hunted by the very man he replaced, the ruthless assassin who once served, then betrayed, Darius Cole. Rather than waiting to be Mason’s next victim, he has escaped witness protection to hunt down and kill Mason himself.

In an action-packed journey that leads from a high-security military installation in the Appalachian Mountains to a secret underground bunker hidden far below the streets of New York City, Nick Mason will have to become, more than ever before, the lethal weapon that Darius Cole created.

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