“Right now, the cops will be scraping my blood off the fence and my hair off the headrest in the car. Soon they’ll be searching databases for my DNA. I’ve been careful, so I’m hoping they won’t find any matches. But you can only eat so many people before someone notices. Maybe I left a trace somewhere. Maybe some cop has been hunting me for years, and this is his big break.”
Hangman is the first adult novel by award-winning Australian author, Jack Heath. Timothy Blake is a consultant for the FBI. He is often called in as a last resort for his uncanny observational skills, his ability to quickly draw almost Sherlock Holmes-like conclusions about suspects and witnesses and victims. But the limited-budget Houston Field Office of the FBI doesn’t pay him cash. Director Peter Luzhin has another arrangement, a rather unconventional (and highly covert) one with an employee at the Death House at Huntsville Prison whereby Timothy gets what he craves most: a fresh human to eat. Because Timothy Blake is a cannibal.
Because of those inclinations, Luzhin always sends Timothy out on investigations with a minder, and for his latest consult, it’s Special Agent Reese Thistle. The kidnapping of a fourteen-year-old schoolboy is a challenging case, but Reese is soon convinced that Timothy is an altruistic man whose motives are pure. But it turns out that Reese knows Timothy better than either of them realises.
Despite his eating habits, the reader may fairly quickly find it hard not to hope Timothy will succeed. He’s a high-school drop-out but intelligent, insightful and street smart. And he is no psychopath: he has an addiction and he feels shame and guilt about what he does. He even considers suicide: “I could end this right now. No more hunger. I’m smart enough to know that I’m criminally insane, so killing myself might save lives in the long run. And to do it without finishing the feast in front of me would prove that I still have some humanity left.”
This is a tale with knives and bullets and animal bites, kidneys surgically removed, bodies devoured, cars stolen, hijacks, and, yes, quite a bit of violence. But despite the title, no one actually gets hanged. Heath begins each chapter with a riddle, clues to which sometimes follow in the story. He drip-feeds the reader facts about Timothy’s early life to build the intrigue. Timothy’s inner monologue and his unsaid asides are often laugh-out-loud (if darkly) comical. The utterly perfect ending is achieved with some killer last lines.
Heath’s adult debut is a brilliant read. He gives the reader a plot that twists and turns so sharply, there may be a danger of whiplash injury. Red herrings and non-stop action keep the pages turning to a heart-stopping climax. Fans of Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter novels are likely to enjoy this, and if the reader can get past the protagonist’s perverted appetites, then they can feast on a truly clever and blackly funny tale. More, please!! With thanks to GoodReads Giveaways and Allen&Unwin for this copy to read and review.