Top positive review
18 people found this helpful
on March 25, 2001
"Hangman" is the eighth novel written under the pseudonym of Michael Slade. Jay Clarke, a regular member of the Slade team, is joined in this novel by his daughter Rebecca. Together, they have crafted another imaginative and gruesome tale of murder and suspense for this series.
Shifting back and forth from Seattle to Vancouver the book covers the gory trail of a serial killer, who hangs victims and cuts off increasing numbers of their limbs (in any order). At each crime scene the detectives, Maddy Thorne of the Seattle PD and Zinc Chandler of the RCMP, find a game of hangman drawn in the victim's blood. Supporting players include Jeffrey Kline - an ambitious Vancouver lawyer, Ethan Shaw - his partner, Alexis Hunt - crime writer and Zinc's long time lover, as well as countless others. These are drawn with gripping detail and a sure hand by the Slade team.
Nothing is what it seems in a Michael Slade novel. "Hangman" is no exception. Expect baroque, twisting plots and convolute interplay between the characters. Personalities are discarded like masks at a Halloween party where the entertainment is unpredictable pastiches of horrific violence and brutality. Another reviewer once wrote that reading a Slade novel is like "literary bungee jumping with Agatha Christie's bastard son." This was not an overstatement.
Another big ingredient in "Hangman" and other Slade novels is and immense amount of historical detail. Expect to learn a great deal about the history of hanging, miscarried justice, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a backdrop to the main action of the story. You will leave this book with such odd tidbits as the origin of the phrases "toeing the line," and "red herring." Occasionally the Clarkes get a bit carried away by their researches, but for the most part they enhance the reading experience.
The main theme of both the murders and the book itself is the ways in which the legal system can be twisted for self-serving aims. Jay Clarke, as a trial lawyer with considerable experience, fills the book with tales of justice gone awry that are every bit as chilling as the murders themselves. In the end we are drawn into the inevitable question, "who guards the guards." Expect to be astounded not just by the fictions that make this an outstanding suspense novel, but by the facts that were the inspiration for its creation.