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"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.
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VINE VOICEon April 6, 2001
Michael Slade is a genre unto himself. He writes historical horror. His novels are so detailed in history that each book is a lesson in geography, criminology and jurisprudence. In the past Slade has focussed on one of these themes and explores them to no end. This time out HANGMAN unifies them all into his best novel to date. HANGMAN is a story that researches the history of the Hangman. From the past to modern times, what I learned was as fascinating as the fictional accounts were bloody.
HANGMAN starts out with a convicted child abuser being hanged as his sentence. While this court-sanctioned penalty is carried out, another hanging is occurring and on the wall, in the victim's own blood, is an invitation for the police to play a game of hangman. These opening scenes are so vivid, I thought I was watching a movie, the descriptions were so realistic.
Another hanging occurs shortly thereafter and are linked to be the work of the same killer but in two countries; the US and Canada. Who has jurisdiction? Will both country's top cops work together or split the case? These are fascinating questions and Slade answers them deftly and with accurate historical information.
Not to be lost is Slade's most courtroom-savvy novel. What transpires in the courts and the lives of the lawyers are as intriguing as the killer and its motives. Slade gives us everything we could ever want for in a horror/thriller/courtroom drama all wrapped into one. The Special X division has never had a case like this and you have never read a more satisfying book as this. Slade is the best kept secret and is destined for huge success. And he deserves it if he keeps putting out stunners like HANGMAN.
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on April 11, 2001
This was the usual tremendous Slade storyline and writing, even though I guess the team changed a bit(or was his daughter always the second member). The story grips the reader from the first sentence right to the end, and the historical detail always adds alot to these books. Additionally, the writing style itself is so much better than the usual horror novelists(including, for example, King and Koontz in my view). The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars, though, was that I think 2 things that happened in this book were, as plot devices, just plain inappropriate. I won't say what they are, because that would be a spoiler, but I think both could have been changed and the book still would have been great. Also, I have to say I like DeClerq and Craven better than Zinc, so their absence in this novel didn't help it in my eyes. Nonetheless, it's still an excellent book.
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on June 14, 2010
I read the favorable reader reviews of this book, and I've got to admit that I'm a little confused. Did we read the same book?

I thought that this book was poorly written, as well as poorly edited. If I didn't read the back cover of the book before I read it, I would have been a little confused about what the book is about. Is it about the history of hangmen, hanging executions and the technical aspects of hanging? The text on this was exhaustive and tedious, and actually kind of boring.

Or is this book about the Vancouver courts, and the differences between the East End Bar and West End Bar? This too was tediious and exhaustive, as well as boring.

But this book a suspense about a serial crime. The crime story itself could have been told in about 1/3rd of the words in this book. The story was weak. I did not feel the suspense. I thought that the characters were weak. I don't care that the story itself is a little over the top; this is fiction, so I'm OK with that.

The writing style was not good, maybe because there were actually two writers. The writing was not smooth and efficient as you would read in books by Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly or Archer Mayor. I did not feel the suspense; not sure why this book was compared to Stephen King's work.

Also, the editing could have been better. I came across some sentences that I just didn't understand what they were trying to communicate. Some of the text was repeated in the book. Transitions between the present and the past were confusing.

I wasted my time reading this book to the end; I thought maybe the book will have a great ending. The ending turned out to be a disappointment.
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on December 21, 2001
Someone had gotten into the hang of grotesque murder - execution style across Seattle and Vancouver. It's a grisly hangman game played in a reverse way, where victims are disembowelled and mutilated as the Special X force of the police comprising of The MOUNTIES and Seattle Cops unravel the riddle. Inspector Zinc Chandler and cop Maddie Thorne race against the time to uncover the mystery and links it to the hanging of Peter Bryce Haddon, a child abuser who claims he is innocent. They discover that the victims are intrinsically related to the jury who finds Haddon guilty - yet time races against them when red herrings are thrown. Even more so when they find the murderer is so close to them.....
As a first time reader of Michael Slade's X psychotic thrillers, I am impressed and even fascinated by the macabre horror jay Clarke and his daughter Rebecca conjured out. HANGMAN for all its childish antics to earn humour, is meticulously detailed and well-researched. The killings narrated in such visceral prose leaves a shudder and the courtroom drama is propulsive action. It is gripping and satirical. Slade combines a high octane who-dun-it mystery with vivid details of hanging style, research on Munch's The Scream and slyly scorns the law with its loopholes. It raises questions on justice, the balance of morals, ethics with law in stories. The protagonists Zinc and Maddie are flawed and beliveable; and the twist and turns are unpredictible.
HANGMAN is an enriching read. It thrills and taunts with terror, and the courtroom scenes are written with gusto given the experience of Jay Clarke as a professional lawyer. It has a style that is unique - a hybrid of true realism and fiction. Despite some parts of the story overstuffed with quotations and the plot haphazardly runs amok, it is a clever read. It lets you get the hang of playing along with the game, then seizes you with pulsating horror and wicked humour.
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on August 11, 2013
I read 4 - 5 books a week. I had to force myself to finish this one. The characters are not very developed, the story does not have a good flow, very choppy. I gave it 3 stars due to the ending, by no means did the ending make up for the struggle to follow the story, or finish the book. This Arthur should really work in character development and having a better flow to the reader.
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on August 15, 2013
I don't like books where the author kills off main characters, i found the book confusing to the point that I kept putting it down and reading something else. Then the border issue brought in too much conflicting issues. Not a whole lot made sense to me.
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on November 19, 2013
Blood and body parts everywhere. When you think you know who the hangman is...he's the next victim! Will keep you guessing! You'll be up reading all night! Keep a mop handy you'll be dreaming of bloody messes that need cleaning up! Interesting ties between Canada & the US.
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on March 6, 2001
I have been following the folks at Special X since the Headhunter case. When Zinc Chandler came aboard to take on the Ghoul, I found a man of action that lived near the edge of the abyss. Slowly, Zinc has been taken apart piece by piece by the Psychos he has hunted. Now, once again, a piece of him has been removed. After reading these cases for so long, you feel it when one of the team falls. Will this be the end of Zinc? I doubt it; he seems to have more lives than a cat. Will he ever be the same? Never. This case flows as smooth as a waxed noose tightening around the neck. I flew through the clues in the file and although I guessed the identity of the Hangman, I didn't really know the answer to the final riddle of why. This ranks among the best of the Special X cases. I would hate to put them in order of preffrence, but this one is up there on the ladder with noose in place. Oh, and the answer from above--- G R E A T.
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on January 24, 2015
Hangman was the first Michael Slade novel where the writing team settled on Jay Clarke and his daughter Rebecca. Right away, I noticed a big change in tone and style. More on that in a moment. This one delved into the dark world of the RCMP and the Special X team, led once again by Zinc Chandler as he chases a serial killer that likes to hang and mutilate his victims.

I never got to review this when I originally read it fourteen years ago, but better late than never here in 2015!

Though written in the usual solid third-person style, the narrative, plot and voice kind’ve went off the rails. Though there was the usual splatter and gore, typical of a Slade novel, this time the historical background and narrative detail became too heavy-handed. This was always present to some extent, but this time, things went a bit too far and got in the way of the action and movement of the story. The meticulous attention to detail bogged things down so that I thought I was reading a bloody history book instead of a dark thriller.

I finally finished the novel, but it was almost a relief. The one good thing was that some of the narrative was told through dialogue and at least it wasn’t one-page paragraphs, so that made it a bit easier. Still, it could’ve been a bit better.
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