What could be expected from the author of a thriller like Ragdoll? Without question, Hangman is the perfect follow-up. Also able to stand on its own, Hangman is a ragged stew of gore and madness. Intrepid Detective Chief Inspector Emily Baxter is pulled back into another serial murder case, albeit without her reliable sidekick, William "Wolf" Fawkes--reputedly last seen dangling from a bridge in New York City. Still reeling from the emotional trauma of the gruesome Ragdoll murders, Baxter is instructed to join forces with a new BBI/CIA/UK law enforcement task force in New York, traveling across the Pond to compare murders, motives and the twisted psyches of copycats doing the bidding of a criminal mastermind. Reluctant to agree there is a connection between the outrageous murders in New York, Baxter is forced to consider the possibility.
An impressive cast of characters stands as warriors against an unknown, horrifically clever foe, from Baxter's supervisor to the two agents she meets in New York, one CIA, one FBI. Although the usual inter-agency distrust shadows every decision they make, the new partners race from one bloody scene to another, bonding in shared adversity, inevitably embroiled in a sustained battle that will claim one of them. By the time Baxter returns to her native soil with the terrible conviction that the crimes are, indeed, related, she has only one agent with her, Special Agent Damien Rouche of the CIA. Both Baxter and Rouche are haunted by the loss of FBI Special Agent Elliot Curtis, her face stilled in death.
Even Metro's Homicide and Serious Crime Command is taxed beyond expectations as the crime scene expands to include both countries, a devious mind preparing a massacre to match the bloody mess left in New York. It's an ugly scenario, a crime spree acted out on two continents with few clues to link either scene together. As expected, Baxter is abrasive and uncooperative, resisting the directions of her supervisor yet unwilling to jeopardize her job, her only solace since the disappearance of Wolf Fawkes. While gradually forming a bond with Rouche, her habitual mistrust causes her to seriously misread her colleague, nearly ruining that fragile connection. She has made a stab at having a personal life with a normal man, but it is difficult to reconcile the battle-scarred detective with any semblance of a balanced life.
Burdened with the harrowing images of Agent Curtis and the self-defacing wounds that spell BAIT and PUPPET on the chests of killers, Baxter and Rouche are reminded of the enormity of the threat they face, an army of killers multiplying in number. The scenes of chaos and death are bloody and garish, terrifying to behold. It is unsurprising that Baxter balances so precariously on the edge of reason, a modern-day vampire slayer forced to stare into the eyes of Death himself, a ballet of good versus evil. Strangely, everything makes sense, even the shocking denouement, Cole certain to repeat the madness in yet another novel, chaos feasting on the vulnerability of the human species.