Title: The Hanging Women
Author: John Mead
Publisher: The Book Guild
Publication Date: 25 February, 2018
About the book:
A historical crime thriller set in 1886 Chicago; the power house of America, a sink of corruption and vice which is haunted by riots and gangland killings. A story of weak men and strong women.
Jack Stevens discovers the bodies of two women, Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh, tied together and hung by their ankles in a position resembling the symbol for treachery as depicted on tarot cards. Though retired and now wealthy, Stevens is an ex-sheriff and involves himself in the subsequent investigation.
As a result of Jack `stealing’ Philomena’s diary and his association with the Pinkerton detective agency, it is discovered that Mary Walsh worked undercover for the Pinkertons, investigating the Knights of Labour (the fastest growing workers’ rights movements in America of the late 1800’s). The women had been working together, tracing the man who was selling guns and dynamite to the more extremest factions of the workers movement. This led them to Ruby’s, a secret `nightclub for deviants’, where Stevens and Inspector O’Leary believe the pair fell foul of the man they were looking for, gang leader Joseph Mannheim.
With the May 4th Haymarket riots and bombings looming, Stevens must uncover the truth about The Hanging Women before it’s too late.
About the author:
John was born in the mid-fifties in Dagenham, London, on part of the largest council estate ever built, and was the first pupil from his local secondary modern school to attend university. He has now taken early retirement to write, having spent the first part of his life working in education and the public sector.
His inspiration for his debut novel came whilst attending a lecture in Denver about the history of the American midwest, describing a time and place that was very different from that espoused by popular culture, which started him thinking this would make a excellent period in which to set a crime story.
John is currently working on a trilogy of novels set in modern day London. These police procedurals examine the darker side of modern life in the East End of the city: a Whitechapel noir.
Where to buy:
The Hanging Women is a compelling historical crime novel which has been written with an excellent understanding of the era the author is writing in. Down to the old-school language and sentence structure, this novel is periodical which ensures that the reader feel part of the world John Mead has created. The characters in this novel are an interesting sort, with Jack being the dark and arrogant know-it-all detective, while the women have much more gumption and personality to be able to relate to.
There is strong use of foreshadowing and tension-building throughout this novel. I often felt that I could see that something bad was about to happen, or something would be revealed, but there was a wall partially covering the truth until the exact moment Mead wanted me to know. In this way, as a crime novel, it is enjoyably frustrating, as you are often so close to the truth, whilst being so far from another part of the truth at the same time.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to anybody who wants to get lost in the world of 1860’s crime. I loved the cultural and historical accuracies, while at the same time respecting the commitment Mead gave to the representation of minorities in the book so that it was both accurate but not defamous. Both readers of historical and crime novels would enjoy this novel; it has a brilliant mix of dark crime but not too much blood and gore. This story will sit in your mind for days to come. Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources and John Mead for my proof copy of the book in exchange for my stop on the blog tour!