Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines's take on The Hanging Club.
The innocent and the crazed ricochet throughout Parsonís latest novel featuring DCI Max Wolfe and his hotshot Murder Investigation Team. A group of masked vigilantes have taken it upon themselves to exact their own sort of bloody revenge. The first victim is Pakistani taxi driver Mahmud Irani, who is choked out of his very last strangled breath in a secret white-brick basement hidden deep below London. Wolfe, together with his boss DCI Pat Whitestone and his colleague DC Edie Wren, are horrified when they learn that Iraniís
brutal murder was recorded. Back at the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, West
End Central, Edie Wren runs the name of Mahmud Iran through the Police National
Computer and discovers that Iran had been found guilty of trafficking. Wolfe takes a closer look at the video and sees that there are in total three or four culprits, all wearing ski masks.
Eventually Iranís body ends up in Hyde Park, as though the perpetrators had chosen to move him from the kill site to a symbolic dumping ground. As the wind sounds in the trees of Hyde Park, echoing the moaning ghosts of Tyburn, Maxís skin crawls at the proximity of all the ancient horror that was once a part of London life throughout much of the nineteenth century. Desperate to find a pattern in the case,
Max follows the trail once again to the Black Museum and the replica of the triple-tree at Tyburn, and back into the orbit of Sergeant John Caine, the
museumís keeper. Edie and Whitestone interview various suspects: Barry and Jean Wilder,
who lost their daughter to Pakistani sex traffickers; and Paul Warboys, an old world, gangland career criminal. The last of the line and the last of those old gangsters, Warboys now sees himself as a victim of crime.
Parsonís blunt prose style keeps the tension at full-throttle, reflecting the increasing viciousness of the hangings. Wolfe and his team race to find the murderers, but not before two more people are hanged. As more unsuspecting men are placed at risk. Dr. Joe Stephen, a forensic psychologist from Kingís College, is brought in to help with the case. He tells Wolfe that the killers truly believe that justice has been thwarted and that they
are obsessive about the judicial process, or at least their version of the judicial process. In their makeshift kangaroo court, the men enthusiastically read the charges
against the child molester, the hit-and-run driver, and the drug addict who put an old war hero into a coma.
Trusting his instincts, Wolfe maintains these vigilantes are far from heroes, at least in the eyes of the law. An honest detective who has never betrayed his principles, Max goes out of his way to tell it like it is. Heís a family man, always attentive to his young daughter Scout and to Stan, their lovable dog. Ensconced in the relative safety of his Smithfield loft, Max watches the meat market below, marveling how it buzzes with its nighttime life beyond the windows. Max finds himself haunted by tales of Newgate Prison, ďthis crucible of misery, disease and corruption from across the centuriesĒ that eventually became a source of national shame. When Max meets the killers face to face in a terrifying encounter, a penultimate reckoning occurs between the ghosts of Newgate and the crimes of the present. Max
ends up fighting for his life, thrown into the lionís den deep in the bowels of the Old Bailey, the holding cell of the Dead Manís Walk where Newgate
was considered ďthe perfect kill site.Ē
In a thought-provoking treatise on the nature of revenge and vigilantism, Parsons posits a retaliation that unexpectedly puts everything into perspective, especially for Max. Although Parsons writes in the same circuitous style as Steve Mosby, his tone is tighter, which somehow works to create the mysterious dark world of these characters and to underscore the terrors that lie in wait for Wolfe and for his murder team as they
fall under siege from a new type of killer.