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Past Crimes: A Van Shaw Novel


Past Crimes: A Van Shaw Novel

From seemingly out of nowhere comes Glen Erik Hamilton with a remarkably confident and self-assured debut thriller novel, PAST CRIMES. New authors such as Hamilton rely much upon word of mouth to get their ware before the public. I, accordingly, hope that my humble efforts here do the man some good, as this is a book that promises much and delivers the same, with a hint of more to come.

Hamilton has a (relatively) young and very capable protagonist at the wheel of PAST CRIMES in the persona of an Army Ranger named Van Shaw. He drops the reader into the middle of Shaw’s life as Shaw steps off a passenger jet at Seattle’s Sea-Tac Airport. Freshly off of a tour of Afghanistan that resulted in serious but not wholly debilitating injuries, Shaw is having a homecoming of sorts. He has returned to the Seattle area in response to a terse, one-sentence request from his grandfather. Dono Shaw is not the type of man to make requests --- commands are more his style --- so Dono’s message to Van, “Come home, if you can,” written in Dono’s native Gaelic, comes as a bit of a surprise. The larger surprise is that Van received a message at all, given that he and Dono have been bitterly estranged for a decade.

"Hamilton begins lobbing hand grenades into the room about three-quarters of the way through and doesn’t let up until practically the last page, piling surprises and explosions on top of each other."

Still, the major and most ironic surprise for Van is revealed when he arrives at Dono’s house to find his grandfather, who was more of a mentor than a relative, bleeding out on the floor from a gunshot wound. As Dono hovers near death in a hospital room, Van devotes his considerable skill set to determining who would have wanted his grandfather dead and why. The narrative intermittently dips back into the past and examines the relationship between Dono and Van when the latter was much younger. It was Dono who trained Van from an early age in the ways of the life of the criminal, teaching him everything from how to pick locks to spotting tails to casing prospective heist sites. Dono’s reputation as a criminal, even in his old age, was well known. Van is well aware that he is a suspect in the attack on his grandfather, given that it occurred almost simultaneously with his return to Seattle.

Van must clear his name, and quickly, if he is going to rejoin his Army unit without a cloud hanging over him. To do so, he must revisit his old haunts and his and Dono’s friends in order to narrow down a list of suspects who might have had reason to do the older man in. While doing so, he follows a trail that leads him to why Dono called him home after years of hostile silence, a reason that will reveal secrets long hidden, as well as one last act of Dono’s that served as his attempt to make things right between himself and his grandson. By the time the book reaches its conclusion, the world for Van will be a much different place than it was at the story’s beginning.

PAST CRIMES builds slowly in spots, as might be expected in a book that appears to be the introductory volume in a potential new series. Hamilton begins lobbing hand grenades into the room about three-quarters of the way through and doesn’t let up until practically the last page, piling surprises and explosions on top of each other. The ending is complete in itself, though somewhat open-ended. The characters --- those who make it to the end --- are certainly interesting enough that should Hamilton desire to revisit the darker streets of Seattle, there should be plenty of story fodder to make such a sojourn worthwhile.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 20, 2015

Past Crimes: A Van Shaw Novel
by Glen Erik Hamilton

  • Publication Date: February 23, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062344560
  • ISBN-13: 9780062344564