Review Blog

Feb 28 2019

Hangman by Jack Heath

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN: 9781760297473.
(Age: 16 - Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Cannibalism. Humour. Crime. FBI. Blake tucks into the arm he has kept in his freezer, thinking about the man who once belonged to it, a killer recently lethally injected at a Houston jail. Blake has a deal with an FBI director, Peter Luzhin; he takes a body when he uses his incredibly well developed skills of deduction to solve an unsolvable case. And if your funny bone is not tickled by this, the gallows humour gets steamier, as we eventually hear how Blake became addicted to human flesh. I laughed out loud at the audacity of well known young adult writer, Jack Heath, giving his older readers a cannibal as his hero. A man whose parents were killed when he was a baby, who is ill educated and has lived in care homes and foster homes, is the most unlikely of heroes yet Heath invests him with a sense of right and wrong, a revulsion at his addiction, a humanity, that makes us beguilingly sympathetic.
Luzhim comes to him when a boy is kidnapped and Blake gets more involved than he wants, finding himself shackled to a wall, and needing to be imaginative about how he can get away, along with the boy lying next to him. But his powers of deduction have him denouncing the wrong person and by the time he has worked out just who the culprit really is, he is captured again and shackled with the other five missing people. His offsider, a young police officer, Reece Thistle, is attracted to this unkempt, sullen man (Scary Timmy, who she recognises from one of the various care homes they both inhabited as children) and when he begins to reciprocate her feelings, he must put her off, citing religious reasons banning sex before marriage.
But she still admires him, not believing the official line that he is both the kidnapper and murderer and follows him to the place he is held captive.
But all is not straightforward. The story twists and turns, adding more information about our unloved hero, hinting at a romantic liaison, holding us in thrall as we read to the breathless end. And there is more, leading to a sequel. And if the story isn't enough to hold your attention, Heath includes riddles at the start of each chapter to get your brain cells active, paralleling Blake who solves puzzles (and some less legal riddles) for a living. Heath has published the answers on his website.
Fran Knight

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