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HANGMAN
by Stephan Talty
Ballantine, May 2014
302 pages
$26.00
ISBN: 0345538080


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

To those on the outside looking in, North Buffalo was a paradise populated by the "haves" of the city, a territory somehow protected from the down-and-dirty world of the working class. But five years earlier, a predator nicknamed "Hangman" had shattered the affluent community, abducting four teenage girls, one after the other. Three of the girls were found dead, apparently hanged. Just hours after the fourth girl disappeared, the killer was found in a motel room, near death from what was described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The missing girl had not been found. The killer, Marcus Flynn, survived and was convicted, but never revealed the whereabouts of the fourth girl. Now, five years later, Flynn has escaped and, against all odds, has evaded a massive manhunt. In what seems like an impossibly short time, a young girl from North Buffalo has once again fallen victim. Lead detective Absalom Kearney is at a loss, despite her sharp intellect and finely-tuned instincts. Desperate to prevent further murders, she turns to the shadowy Irish network in her dad's old neighborhood for help, a move that undermines her personal relationships and may come back to haunt her.

This is a well-told, fast-paced tale with a strong, interesting female lead. The reader is given a look at Buffalo that is surprising to one that doesn't know the city's history. Talty deftly touches on the boundaries of race, culture, class, and gender, the subtle and not-so-subtle biases that color our perceptions and misperceptions, the dance with light and shadow that seems to be interwoven in the life of a law enforcement officer and that often makes it difficult to draw a firm line between good and evil.

HANGMAN is the second novel in the Abbie Kearney series. (BLACK IRISH, which introduced Absalom Kearney, was published in 2013.) HANGMAN can easily stand alone but reading the novels in chronological order would be more satisfying. There are references to prior experiences that shape Kearney's perceptions and decisions in this second novel and facets of her character that might be better understood if you begin at the beginning. Some of the references in HANGMAN to previous events could serve as a spoiler to the outcome of the first novel. I didn't find this particularly off-putting (I read BLACK IRISH after I read HANGMAN), but be forewarned.

P.D. Crumbaker lives in Tallahassee, Florida, where she works as an editor for a legal publication.

Reviewed by P.D. Crumbaker, June 2014

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