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Past Crimes
Van Shaw #1
Glen Erik Hamilton

William Morrow
3/3/2015 / ISBN 9780062344557

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton is his debut novel starring Army Ranger Van Shaw. It is a book about family and forgiveness, and how circumstances can affect the interaction between people as they embrace and reject their past. Within that story is an action-packed plot that looks at the different aspects of crime.

Donovan, “Dono,” Shaw, Van’s estranged grandfather, raised him to become a thief, following in his footsteps. Having had enough of the criminal world, Van exiled himself, abandoning his illicit past, by joining the army. Van, an Army Ranger returns home to Seattle after ten years in response to a terse message from his grandfather. After arriving home he discovers Dono was shot and left for dead. Van becomes the prime suspect and is drawn back into the criminal underworld of his youth as he hunts for the shooter with the help of his grandfather’s peers.

The author gives a shout out to those in the military. Van enjoys being a Ranger because it has given him a sense of duty. He was injured in Iraq when his unit was ambushed. He received his facial “tribal marks” from pieces of shrapnel that took off part of his cheekbone. After recovering he knew he had to “get back on the horse” and was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Being a warrior has given Van a different perspective on life.

Hamilton commented, “ A good friend of mine was in the Special Forces. To fact check information in the book, I spoke to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I wanted to make sure that Van’s formidable years were spent as a warrior since he entered the army at age eighteen. The reason I made Van a Ranger is that they are all about knocking down doors and direct action.”

Readers instantly like Van for being loyal, tough-minded, and independent, traits inherited from his grandfather. Actually all the protagonists in this story have very similar traits. The main female character, Luce, also has these qualities. Hamilton explores how each of the three main characters deal with the issue of crime. Dono has a contentious relationship with Van because of Van’s desire to escape his criminal youth, removing himself from the temptation. While Luce, whose grandfather was Dono’s partner, responded to her criminal surroundings by staying in Seattle to confront it head on through embracing the straight and narrow.

The author noted, “ Van has matured during the years he’s been in the Army. He may not completely forgive or even understand his grandfather, but he also knows that he’s not blameless himself. The two men are much more alike than either of them realize, in their faults and their loyalties. Van had completely bought in to the criminal life as a teenager. When he left it, he left everything from his youth along with it.Yet, Van knows family is important to Dono as he raised him from the age of six. Van and his grandfather have a complicated relationship where they love each other but it was hardly ever expressed in words.”

Past Crimes is edgy and suspenseful. It will be interesting to see what Hamilton has in store for the main characters as the series moves along. If this first novel is any indication Van and company will be pitted into action-packed emotional storylines with many twists and turns.

In the next book Hamilton hopes to explore how Van will establish himself in the civilian world, using the skills he learned as a Ranger. He will also continue th
e relationship with Luce while he struggles to bring justice to those he knew from his past.

Reviewed 2015