Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik
Hamilton combines a mysterious plot with very powerful characters.
Featured is Van Shaw, a former Army Ranger who must come to
grips with making the transition from military to civilian
The major theme is trust. Hamilton explores
how someone needs to depend on their friends and have confidence
in their own choices. The plot begins with Van helping one
of his late grandfather’s associates search for his
high school acquaintance, Elana Call, in Seattle’s Olympic
Mountains. What he finds instead is a brutal murder scene,
including a victim from one of Seattle’s most influential
families. He is caught in the middle of a confrontation between
a billionaire and a drug cartel. On a mission to find the
truth behind Elana’s disappearance, Van must trust his
instincts to find a resolution.
Van’s life is a number of transitions,
including trying to avoid joining the criminal world of his
grandfather, and becoming a civilian after his Afghanistan
deployments. He also wrestles with his own reemerging symptoms
of PTSD caused during his combat days. A new character also
suffers, former Army Ranger Leo Pak. The author explores the
issue through the camaraderie they face, with each expressing
their feelings, experiences, symptoms, and therapy.
The plot skillfully handles the real impact
PTSD has on some veterans. Hamilton commented, “I did
my homework. In addition to a lot of reading on the subject,
including David Finkel’s excellent Thank You For Your
Service, I talked to Army vets and former Rangers about their
own tours, how they thought about combat stress while active,
and how that has changed since they’ve become civilians.
Some of those soldiers were very open and honest about their
issues and frustrations, and I owe them a great deal. There
are no pat answers. As I mention in the book, there may be
dozens of options for medical or psychological help, but navigating
the system can be overwhelming. Some make it through and find
what they need. Others don’t, or can’t.”
While there are similarities between Van and
Leo, Hamilton contrasts Van and his girlfriend Luce Boylan.
Both came from criminal families, but Luce chose the straight
and narrow path, practically raising herself. On the other
hand, Van relied on the military to keep him focused, but
always seems to be drawn in with the criminal element.
Hamilton told blackfive.net, “Van is
working on the transition between the life he wants and the
life he now has. The next book will continue this storyline.
He is trying to figure out his life without the military structure.
He does not think of himself as a ‘war junkie’
but realizes he is not the type to sit at a desk forty hours
a week. In the next book he tries to reconcile a balance between
the criminal life of his past and his moral center.”
Cold Winter readers will learn more about what makes
Van tick through an interesting backstory. This plot has likeable
characters, a good mystery, and is informative about what
combat veterans must face.