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The Hanging Club


The Hanging Club

Tony Parsons should be on your “must-read” list regardless of the genre or medium in which he is working. He is well into his third decade of work as a British newspaper journalist, has written several bestselling novels in what is classified as the “serious” fiction genre, and also occasionally hosts a television arts review show. We are thus blessed that Parsons of late has also taken to writing crime fiction. THE HANGING CLUB is the third entry in his instantly classic Max Wolfe series, and it demonstrates that his previously successful forays into police procedural mysteries were no flukes.

" amazingly evenhanded discussion of the issues of vigilante justice and the slow-motion breakdown of the criminal court system."

Detective Constable Wolfe is not especially complex. He is a quietly driven law enforcement officer who is compelled to do the right thing in both his professional and personal lives. So when a group of vigilantes begin exercising their own particular brand of rough justice  --- death by hanging --- upon a select group of criminals who have slipped through the cracks of the system (and aided and abetted by so-called “forward-looking” judges), Max feels duty-bound to catch them before they kill again. The doers who operate outside of the law make great use of social media, posting videos of their executions on the internet for all to see. It cannot be said that they don’t have their fans and supporters, either.

Even as he tenaciously investigates the matter, Max finds that he must continuously remind himself and others that even the worst criminal is entitled to protection under the law, even as it seems that the system all too often fails to protect innocent victims. The vigilante team continues to operate, seemingly at will, to the degree and extent that at one point they are able to abduct Max himself, whose investigation has apparently been striking too close to home for some of them. The kidnapping provides Max with an important but baffling clue: How can the hangmen be carrying out their actions at a location that hasn’t existed for many years? There is an answer, but it’s one that he is going to have a hard time figuring out, particularly since the public sympathy expressed for the hangmen may well extend into his own investigative team. There are a number of twists and turns in the case, some of which you will see coming, but Parsons saves the biggest one for the end. And it shouldn’t be a surprise at all.

THE HANGING CLUB is wonderfully straightforward. The plot isn’t particularly complex; Parsons saves the meatiest discussions for the issues involved and, more particularly, for the characterizations of the supporting cast. The result is an amazingly evenhanded discussion of the issues of vigilante justice and the slow-motion breakdown of the criminal court system. The supporting cast, both returning and newly minted, is refreshingly real as well, though Max is more than capable of carrying the proceedings all by himself. I don’t know what muse inspired Parsons to turn his able and talented hand to detective fiction, but I hope it continues to whisper in his ear for some time to come.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 23, 2016

The Hanging Club
by Tony Parsons

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250052718
  • ISBN-13: 9781250052711