Award-winning author of the acclaimed Alex McKnight series Steve Hamilton delivers his eagerly awaited, breakaway thriller with Night Work.
Joe Trumbull is not a man who scares easily. As a juvenile probation officer in Kingston, New York, he's half cop, half social worker to the most high-risk youth in the city. And when he's not pounding the streets, trying to keep his kids out of jail, he's pounding a heavy bag in the gym to stay in shape.
But tonight Joe Trumbull is scared to death.
It's been two years since his fiancee, Laurel, was brutally murdered. Two years of grief and loneliness. On this hot summer night, he's finally going out on a blind date, his first date since Laurel's death. He's not looking for love, just testing the waters to see if it's possible to live a normal life again. The thought of it is turning his knees to jelly.
Marlene Frost is a beautiful woman. She's warm and funny, with a smile to match. After the first awkward minutes, Joe finally starts to think this isn't such a bad idea after all. In fact, maybe this blind date will turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to him.
He couldn't be more wrong. Because somehow, for reasons Joe can barely understand, this one evening will mark the beginning of a new nightmare. A nightmare that will lead him to the faceless man in the shadows, and to the most terrible realization of all....
For Joe Trumbull, the past is never past. And the worst is yet to come.
Edgar-winner Hamilton's first stand-alone crime thriller falls short of his excellent Alex McKnight series (A Stolen Season, etc.). When Joe Trumbull, a juvenile probation officer in Kingston, N.Y., finally decides to socialize two years after his fiancee's murder, his blind date winds up strangled to death hours after their meeting. The local police chief calls in a pair of state detectives, who make Joe their prime suspect after two more woman are murdered who recently had contact with him. A loner beset by nightmares living in a messy apartment above the gym where he boxes to keep in shape, Joe begins to investigate to clear his name. Though the usually reliable Hamilton nicely evokes life in Kingston and the Hudson River landscape, this search for a psychopathic killer disappoints with repetitive dead ends and a cliched wounded protagonist who brings on the terrifying climax by working with no backup. Author tour. (Sept.)
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September 18, 2007
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Excerpt from Night Work by Steve Hamilton
I was scared to death that night. I admit it.
I sat in my second-story window, taping my hands and looking down at the cars on the street. I should have been wearing a white undershirt to complete the picture, and playing my saxophone while the people passed below me on the hot sidewalk. If I could have played the damned thing worth a lick, I would have. Instead I just sat there and watched an early moon rise high above the buildings. When I saw it, I said to myself, here's one more excuse not to go through with this. A full moon is nothing but trouble for me. If you think it's an old wives' tale, just ask anybody with a job like mine. Go ask a cop working the night shift, or a doctor in the emergency room. He'll tell you. A full moon means a busy night.
I thought about finding some music to calm me down. Something slow and easy. But I figured no, that'll just drive me nuts, so I went downstairs and jumped some rope. Then I worked the speed bag, one hand over the other as fast as I could, fast as a drum roll. I hit the heavy bag for a while, just long enough to make my hands hurt and my arms feel slightly numb for the rest of the evening. Anderson held the bag for me, and watched me with that knowing smile on his face.
"Somebody's a little wired," he said. "Don't tell me you're anxious about tonight."
"Not at all." A lie as big as the lump in my throat.
"Come on, Joe," he said. He let go of the bag. "You're acting like a kid."
Good old Anderson. He was the owner of this old wreck of a place, this old bus station turned into a gym with two apartments upstairs. He was a good trainer, a good landlord, and an even better human being, but I wasn't sure if I could deal with him today. Not on this day of all days.
"It's been a while," I said. "You know that."
He knew. "Long enough," he said. "What's the worst thing that can happen?"
I didn't have an answer to that, so I just wrapped him up in a sweaty bear hug. He tried to dodge me, but from what I hear he was a slow man even at his fighting weight in 1960. The years since hadn't made him any faster.
"I've got to get dressed," I said. "Go bother somebody else."
"You're gonna be fine, Joe. Just relax."
"Easy for you to say."
I left him there, went up the rickety old stairs two at a time, and hit the shower. This was my sad excuse for a home, this room and a half that had once been the bus station's main office. It still held the faint smell of cigarettes and bus fumes, but at this point in my life it seemed to fit me. Or at least if it didn't, it wasn't something I even cared about. I stood in front of the closet and went through the shirts, looking for something that matched my dress pants.
"When in doubt," I said. I picked out the white shirt, figuring white goes with anything, right? Then I had a ten-minute debate with myself on the tie issue. Red tie. Blue tie. The red tie won in a split decision.
When it was firmly knotted around my neck, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and took a good hard look at myself. Was I up for this?
Hell no. But it was too late to back out now. Even with a full moon.
I checked my messages. There was one from Howie, wishing me luck. He was my best friend, going all the way back to elementary school. Now he was a detective on the Kingston police force. What mattered tonight was that he knew how hard this would be. He was the only guy who really knew.
"I've got to get psyched for this," I said. "Get my head on straight." It was too early to leave yet, so I went back to the collection. Never mind slow and easy. I needed something huge, so I pulled out Peter Bretzmann's Machine Gun. It's a blistering assault on the ears, with eight of Europe's strongest free jazz players going at it back in 1968 like it was the end of the world. Owning this album is probably illegal in many states.
I cranked it up to eleven and let Herr Bretzmann rattle the windows for me, along with most of my brain cells. It never failed. When it was done, the silence was even more deafening.
It was way too warm for a jacket, but I grabbed one anyway. With just a white shirt and a tie I'd look like the counterman at a muffler shop. I went back down the stairs, hoping to avoid the gym and any further helpful commentary from Anderson. Or any of the other muscleheads in the gym. Anderson had probably told every single last one of them.