Written by Glen Erik Hamilton — Van Shaw, US Army Ranger veteran, steps off a plane in Seattle drawn back by a note from his estranged grandfather, Dono, 10 years after he suddenly left. He hasn’t heard from Dono or been home since then, undertaking tours in various war-torn theatres as the army trained and moulded Shaw into what he is today.
But when Shaw arrives at Dono’s house, the place he grew up, he finds his grandfather with a gunshot wound to the head, clinging onto life. As he tends to the old man Shaw is attacked by an assailant who is still in the house. Shaw fights back, the intruder escapes, but leaves behind one of the items he’d broken in to claim – a surveillance bug.
Dono is a career criminal and, before he left, Shaw used to help him. Shaw believes Dono carried out one last heist and that’s why the old man was shot. When Dono succumbs to his wounds Shaw decides that in order to find the killer he must do what he swore he never would – return to the underworld he left behind and to the friends he hasn’t seen since.
But Shaw ends up caught in the middle, between the criminals after the goods Dono took, the police who have Shaw down as prime suspect for Dono’s shooting, and the army from which he is on leave. As Shaw closes in on the contraband and Dono’s murderous past crimes rise to the surface and he realises the truth is closer to home than he’d like…
Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut novel has a cover blurb by Lee Child, no less. That’s an achievement in itself, but in Past Crimes the author has produced a taut crime thriller that is a step above the rest. It is compelling from the off and protagonist Shaw is an interesting and unusual mix of criminal tempered with a strong sense of law and order resulting from his time as a young career criminal followed by his an enlistment. He’s skilled in illegal activities such as burglary and remains willing to bend the rules, but won’t break them in the way he used to. Added to that, the army has trained to hurt and to kill. There are shades of Jack Reacher here, although thankfully not too much.
The supporting cast of characters is also strong, with appropriately colourful dialogue to boot. Seattle is an interesting backdrop, with sufficient shades of light and dark, law and order, to admirably support the narrative.
Interspersed throughout are flashbacks to Shaw’s youth, used to explain why he left town, the location of the stolen goods and, ultimately, Dono’s killer and the reasons why he was shot. These diversions aren’t short, they stretch into pages at a time – unfortunately they tend to conflict with the breakneck flow of the story. Some may find this exposition of great interest, to be fair it does flesh out the characters significantly, however you might wish the writer would just get on with it and tell the story.
Lee Child’s blurb says the author hit a home run – not quite, it bounced once, but nevertheless this is a worthy crime tale.
Past Crime is released 3 March in the UK.
Faber & Faber
CFL Rating: 4 Stars