Friday, March 12, 2021

Book Review: Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong characters, exciting story
Cons: A bit too dark at times, but never for very long
The Bottom Line:
Long forgotten gold
Sets off exciting thriller
Darker choice for me

Greed is a Trap

Last year, I made the acquaintance of ex-army range Van Shaw, and I enjoyed both of the first two books in the series.  I was expecting another thrill ride when I picked up Every Day Above Ground, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Van is struggling to make ends meet while rebuilding his grandfather’s house.  That’s why the offer from Mickey O’Hasson is just too good to pass up.  Mickey was an associate of Van’s grandfather and has just gotten out of jail where he learned about a stash of gold in an abandoned office building about to be torn down.  Mickey was hoping to get Van’s grandfather, a thief, to help him take the gold.  Van has sworn off his grandfather’s profession, but this offer is too good to pass up, and Van is too desperate for funds.

Van does his best to prepare, trying to avoid any complications.  However, he and Mickey still walk into a trap, and Mickey winds up captured by people unknown while Van barely escapes.  Not even knowing who is involved, Van starts to figure out how he can rescue Mickey and possibly recover the gold at the same time.  But who is he up against?

In case you didn’t figure it out, this is not one of my usual cozies.  Make no mistake, we get plenty of story appropriate language and violence in these pages.  I do wish the violence were toned down a bit, but only one or two scenes get too much for me.  It’s always realistic, never gratuitous, but I still could have done without it.

What has hooked me on this series is Van himself.  He is a very sympathetic main character.  In the first two books, I felt like when he crossed lines, it was because he had to help someone else.  This is the first time that his ethics really come into question for me.  If this were the first book in the series I picked up, I might have had a bigger problem with Van’s decisions that set the story into motion, but I was willing to give him more leeway since I already know him and like him.  And it helps that it is easy to understand the temptation.  Too easy, in fact.

It was obvious from the beginning that things were not going to be as easy as they first appeared.  I mean, if they were that easy, we wouldn’t have a book, right?  I enjoyed watching things unfold, and a few of the twists along the way surprised me.  I got a kick out of some of the locations Van used in his attempts to save himself and Mickey.

It really is the characters that draw me into the series.  And I said earlier, Van is immensely likable.  I want him to succeed.  Along the way, we get to know some other sympathetic supporting characters.  I enjoyed checking in with the other series regulars as well.  We don’t have a long list of them, but I like the ones we have.  The rest of the cast comes to life, which is pretty remarkable given the amount of page time some of them have.

I’m continuing the series on audio.  R. C. Bray is back as the reader for the second time, and he does a fantastic job of bringing the story to life without getting in the way.  I’m realizing what a tricky balancing act that is for narrators, and he does a great job of it.

Every Day Above Ground is a thrilling mystery that kept me entertained from start to finish.  If you want something darker, give this series a chance.

Be sure to check out the rest of the Van Shaw novels.

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