Today I’m sharing my thoughts on Hangman the second book in the Ragdoll series by Daniel Cole. I loved the first book, just something about the darkness within it ticking all the boxes for what I love in my crime reads. After the shocking journey we were taken on in book one which kept me reading all night long, could Mr Cole pull it off again? Well let’s take a look at what the book is about and then we’ll see.
About the Book
18 months after the ‘Ragdoll’ murders, a body is found hanging from Brooklyn Bridge, the word ‘BAIT’ carved into the chest.
In London a copycat killer strikes, branded with the word ‘PUPPET’, forcing DCI Emily Baxter into an uneasy partnership with the detectives on the case, Special Agents Rouche and Curtis.
Each time they trace a suspect, the killer is one step ahead. With the body count rising on both sides of the Atlantic, can they learn to trust each other and identify who is holding the strings before it is too late?
You know when you just have to have a book? Those books and authors you almost cyber-stalk on Amazon waiting for the news that the next book is set to arrive. That was me when it came to this one. I’ve had it on pre-order for Kindle for as long as possible, even banging in a cheeky pre-order for a signed copy of the book with Goldsboro – that was how confident I was I was going to love it. To be honest, I’m sure I had it through Netgalley too but it fast became the one (of many) that got away. In the end, I have read neither and bought the audio version as well which I finally managed to find time to listen to a couple of weeks ago.
Word to the wise – if you are listening to an audio book, try not to do so on a day that some idiot decides to have an accident, closing the motorway, so that you have to detour across country, not a clue where you are going, whilst remaining 100% focused on the gripping story you are listening to. It’s not easy balancing the need to a) not get lost, b) not actually crash yourself and c) listen intently to a book whilst simultaneously pulling all manner of grimaces and funny faces. The main saving grace for the day was the trip across country added an hour to my day and by the time I arrived home I has as good as finished the book. Good stuff. (BTW – Hemel Hempstead – what the hell is up with that funky weird series of bloody roundabouts off the A414? Can you not just install a few sets of traffic lights?)
Anyhow, I digress. The book. Oh my life the book. Can I just state here and now that I loved it. Gruesome murders, a truly messed up killer and even more messed up investigating team. Heartbreak, danger, bedlam, and the most chilling way to interrupt commuters in New York’s Grand Central Terminal I have ever seen. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but there was a kind of grim fascination with that scene in particular, something which kind of made me do one of those smile/grimace kind of gestures. It also made me miss my turning on the roundabout but what is a few extra laps of a roundabout when you are having fun … 😀
Now, if you have read Ragdoll, you will be very aware of the central protagonist, Emily Baxter. In Hangman she has gained promotion off the back of her success in the Ragdoll case, something she is starting to regret. When she is called upon by agents from the FBI and CIA to assist in a case which has startling similarities to that previous investigation, she regrets it even more. With new partners, albeit temporary ones, agents Elliot Curtis and Damien Rouche, Baxter finds herself drawn into a wicked game of cat and mouse, where victims are all etched with the same word, although no-one knows it’s meaning.
The case is fascinating, and the murders seemingly escalating to a point where anything seems possible. Indeed, Cole takes the readers on a merry dance, well perhaps not exactly merry, but across continents at least, skilfully playing with emotions, fears and building our anticipation as the tension mounts and we are left holding our breath to see how things will erupt. And erupt they do and not just at the books conclusion. there is a scene maybe two thirds through which reminded me of one particular series of Dexter. Just some of the imagery and the biblical context of how this and a few subsequent scenes played out. Have I ever told you that I loved Dexter too. Basically I just love the darkness.
What Daniel Cole has done really well is in developing characters that you grow to care about fairly quickly. Baxter is well established, but after larger than life Wolf in book one, it was going to take someone pretty special to fill that void. Special Agent Rouche is that person. There was something about him, perhaps his aloofness and cool attitude, without cockiness, when we first met him. Certainly he is a stark contrast to uptight Baxter or even uber professional and keen Curtis, who I also grew to like, although not quite as quickly. Rouche is flawed, seems to have no qualms about putting himself in harm’s way and yet has a strong moral compass which we grow to understand more as the book progresses. A brilliant character – bravo Mr Cole.
All in all, if you are weak of constitution, this may not be the book for you. Some of the deaths are quite gross. Not necessarily grossly described, but there is no getting away from the cold hard facts of what takes place. This is by no stretch a cosy crime. But my time listening to this book flew by. Pacing was perfect, fast – – slow – fast against, pitching itself against the needs of the story. It is great seeing a strong female character at the helm too and Baxter is most certainly that. And with how the book ended … Well I can’t wait to see what comes next. I am seriously going to have to re-read these book as some point as I just love them.
A belated thanks to Trapeze for providing a copy of the book via Netgalley (even though I listened to the audio which is, by the way, excellent if somewhat distracting). Hangman is available now from the following retailers: