Review by Jay Fromkin
Title:We are the Hanged Man
Author: Douglas Lindsay
Two confessions: I like British crime novels; I hate reality TV. “We are the Hanged Man” is satisfying on both counts.
Robert Jericho is a middle-aged, manic-depressive detective chief investigator who’s been shunted off the the small town of Wells to finish out his once stellar career. He’s been deep in the dumps since his wife, Amanda, disappeared. Jericho didn’t know how, didn’t know where, didn’t know why. He just knew she wasn’t coming back, though she does, sometimes, in his dreams.
And, then, two things happen. Jericho begins receiving tarot cards depicting The Hanged Man. Eventually, he receives six, each more grotesque than the previous one. Worse, Jericho is assigned to be an adviser/judge to a new reality TV show “Britain’s Got Justice,” which pitted a group of mooks against each other for the chance to achieve fame, nationwide recognition, and least of all, a job as a cop. Jericho hates the concept, despises the contestants, and loathes the TV executives responsible for this horror show. It only gets worse when one of the contestants disappears and the TV executives re-focus the show on finding the missing contestant.
“We are the Hanged Man” is both a fascinating portrait of a British detective at the end of his emotional rope and a blistering indictment of reality TV. It is plodding in parts, as is police work; violent in parts; and often very funny. Author Douglas Lindsay is a very good writer and this is a very good, though not perfect, book. For me the procedural weakness is the length of time Jericho takes after receiving the first couple of tarot cards to ask himself whether one of the criminals he’d arrested had been released from prison.
There are some grammatical errors, but not enough to make a real difference. What does make a real difference is the quality of the writing. Here’s an example, a description of two women engaged in “Nordic walking” with cross-country poles: “The women were marching across the park towards them, arms, legs and sticks moving in perfect unison, as if they were members of the Royal Marine Nordic Walking Band.” Great image.
And another: “The world was passing him by. People had always talked rubbish, but hadn’t there been a time when they had acknowledged their own mendacity? Now everyone seemed to own everything they said. If they chose to believe it, it was true.”
“We are the Hanged Man” was published by Blasted Heath Press, a collaborative of independent writers. They are really an up-and-coming publisher. I’d previously given a positive review to their author Ray Banks’ novel “Dead Money,” and I look forward to digging deeper into their catalog.