This review will contain spoilers for the first Nick Mason book, The Second Life of Nick Mason.
Exit Strategy is the second book in the Nick Mason series, picking up shortly where the first book left off. The previous title, the Second Life of Nick Mason, was a fantastic thriller novel. I read the whole thing in one sitting because it just blew me away. The sequel, not so much. The dynamic of the story and characters shifts a lot over the course of Exit Strategy. It felt like Steve Hamilton decided he wanted to change a bunch of things about this series. And then decided the best way to do that was with piles of bodies and other character write-offs.
Any thriller story, be it a book or a movie, is going to have a main character who is a one-man army. Jason Bourne, John Wick, and others like them all leave literal scores of dead men in their wake. Usually characters are given a backstory that explains this, like being former black ops or raised by a paramilitary family. Nick Mason is set up as a small-time criminal with a code of honor, yet his body count rivals Rambo’s. Mason being able to outfox a federal organization, even with the help of a crime boss, is just too much. But if you want detailed descriptions of people being broken, beaten, and otherwise injured, Exit Strategy will not disappoint.
The characterization in the first book was one of its strongest points. In Exit Strategy, it was just too rushed. Everything that happens in this book felt like it could have been spread over three or so novels. That way the story would have had more meat on its bones. Imagine if the first two or three Jason Bourne films had all been crammed into one movie. Exit Strategy was like that. Events just escalated too quickly to be believable and the big reveal at the end felt too soon.
There will be a sequel to Exit Strategy with the way the book ends. Whether book #3 gets the series back to where it was in book #1 is up in the air. If you keep the first book in mind, this book could potentially warrant itself as 4-stars. Standalone, it is 3-stars hands-down. By no means is it a bad book, but it is a bland book. We will see how the next Nick Mason installment pans out.