Nick Masonís descent into hell begins with a foolish plan for a supposedly simple heist that costs him everythingóhis family, freedom, and a felony charge. Most painful is the loss of his wife, Gina, and his small daughter, Adriana. Despairing of the long years of incarceration ahead of him, Nick is approached with an offer he canít refuse. Killer Darius Cole explains Masonís choices: years at the mercy of other inmates or a release into the world. All Nick has to do is answer Coleís calls on a cell phone and immediately follow instructions to complete a particular task. No innocent, Nick understands the implications of accepting this get-out-of-jail card but canít resist, sure he can find a way out of the deal once on the outside. Heís wrong.
In this second volume of the series (The Second Life of Nick Mason), the protagonist is trapped in a Faustian bargain, living in a luxurious Chicago condo, driving spectacular cars, and sharing the condo with beautiful, accomplished Diana Rivelli, who runs an upscale restaurant. Mason is tied to the cell phone, anticipating the orders that bring his foolish deal into stark relief. No longer just a felon for the robbery that cost a friend his life, Mason fails to extricate himself from Coleís demands. Gina and Adriana are the price heíll pay for disobeying. Nick is an assassin, given the most dangerous assignments, narrowly escaping with his life with each encounter, and he is being watched. Coleís cold-eyed thug supplies the ammunition he needs for each caper, making sure Mason escapes to be used for the next deadly order.
One after another, Mason travels to the specified destinations, working his way toward the target and escaping capture, each assignment more dangerous than the last. Coleís thug is always close by, watching. Nick has picked up a few other interested parties along the way, most notably Chicago Detective Frank Sandoval, who suspects Mason is guilty of the brutal murders. It infuriates Sandoval that Nick lives in luxury, enjoying his freedom and evading arrest. In Masonís most recent assassination, US Marshal Bruce Harper becomes involved, losing not only his charge in Witness Protection but one of his officers. Meanwhile, another drama plays out in a courtroom, where Assistant US Attorney Rachel Greenwood faces an almost impossible challenge, attempting to keep a notorious killer behind bars.
Vaguely conscious of the vice tightening around him by law enforcement, Mason is more concerned with the safety of the family he has forfeited. Itís a harrowing tightrope act, one he cannot sustain. There is no time to plan an escape, though roommate Diana has shared her equally impossible dilemma; neither are able to sever ties with Darius Cole. Mason feels less alone but once again has no recourse when Darius calls. Mason crossed a line the first time he answered the call: ďThere is no such thing as innocence anymore.Ē
This is murky territory, teeming with ugly characters who thrive on violence, good guys outmatched by the venality of their adversaries. Mason straddles both worlds, about to fall. Willing to do anything to experience his freedom once more, Nick has lost everything that matters to him. After all the bloodshed, the fear and the scent of death that follows him, Nick rebels only to face another trap. Hamilton keeps up the pressure in this second Mason novel, twisting the plot when least expected, keeping readers guessing if Mason will ever break free and how he will change in the process.