The Hanging Club | Tony Parsons | 2016 | Century | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
When taxi driver Mahmud Irani is hanged, the video of his death broadcast across the internet, there are few to mourn him. Irani had been a member of an infamous gang of predators that groomed girls and preyed upon them mercilessly. Irani is just the first, soon there are other hanged men, each of them guilty of a heinous crime.
DC Max Wolfe finds himself one of the leading members of the investigative team – his boss, the normally reliable and peerless DCI Pat Whitestone, is enduring a whole load of personal hurt, leaning on Max, her friend as well as colleague, to carry her through these times. But it isn’t easy to investigate a murderer or murderers that the public doesn’t want caught. It’s almost as if the police themselves are on trial for not having done the job properly in the first place.
The Hanging Club is the third novel in the Max Wolfe series and, like the others, stands alone very well.
Max Wolfe is a fantastic creation. In some ways there’s a darkness about him. He is fascinated by police history, regularly visiting the Crime Museum, searching for inspiration from its notorious artefacts, in this case hundreds of years worth of genuinely original nooses. He’s also a keeper of secrets when he has to be, determined to do what has to be done even if it isn’t what the job expects. But Max is driven to protect society because he has something very precious himself to protect – his five-year-old daughter Scout. A single father, but with plenty of help and support, Max, Scout and their dog Stan are a family, and his devotion to his family is what drives Max on and is a big reason why these novels, despite the darkness of some of the crimes, are such a delight to read. Max is such a likeable man.
The big theme here is clear from the very beginning – the rights and wrongs of vigilantism. And it goes far deeper than the case at hand, the murders of the Hanging Club as the public and media have named them. Throughout the book, we are invited to question whether murder, or violence, or perhaps just a threat, can ever be the right thing to do. Do we all have a point beyond which we cannot be pushed? Max is tested here and he’s not the only one.
As usual with these books, I wondered why Max is still a DC and I also wondered where on earth he gets the income to afford an apartment in Smithfields. There was also one moment in the plotting (which I obviously can’t mention) that seemed less believable to me. But these are very small points and didn’t detract at all from my thorough enjoyment of a novel that I didn’t once want to put down. This is one of those books that demands to be read into the small hours and I did just that. The London setting is wonderful, both above the streets and below them. I love the characters of Max, Scout and Stan, enjoying their walks around Smithfields and London. So many little details are provided to make us feel a part of their lives, a part of Max’s efforts to give Scout the best possible start in life. It is beautifully done and it feels as if there are so many ways in which their stories can develop. I can’t wait to spend time with them again.
The Slaughter Man