Written by Tony Parsons — Our main character here, DC Max Wolfe, has appeared in The Murder Bag and The Slaughterman. He’s based at West End Central police station, which sits among London’s finest tailor shops on Savile Row. The case Wolfe faces in The Hanging Club bursts into gruesome life when the video of an apparent execution is posted online.
The officers of the Major Incident Team, along with thousands of online viewers, watch in horror as the kitchen stool is kicked out from under the feet of a Pakistani taxi driver, and he chokes to death, swinging by an improvised noose.
The random murder of an innocent man? Not exactly. Mahmud Irani was part of a gang of men who groomed, raped and abused a number of white teenage girls. He served a jail term which was a bit short considering his crimes.
The next video to surface is similar. A handful of masked executioners use the same location, apparently deep underground somewhere. The hanged man? A young city trader who killed a boy cyclist, served a few months in jail, and then returned to his job, which had thoughtfully been kept open for him.
As Wolfe and the MIT realise that they have a vigilante group on their hands, the story begins to enter territory so well covered in films like Death Wish, Gran Torino, Harry Brown and Taken. Wolfe himself becomes personally involved in the hunt for the gang. He has rescued an old school chum – an ex-soldier – from living rough on the streets, but soon learns that Jackson Rose’s Afghanistan experiences may tie him in with an attempt to abduct an outspoken Muslim cleric.
Parsons steps skilfully through a veritable minefield of contemporary issues. The Pakistani taxi driver, the obnoxious city boy with his lethal supercar, and the loathsome hate preacher are all horribly familiar to anyone who reads newspapers or watches the news. I am a sucker for a good London setting, and Parsons doesn’t disappoint. Wolfe’s little rooftop flat within sight and sound of St Paul’s Cathedral is a delight, and the eventual location of the hangings is a complete surprise. A little research on Google reveals that the underground setting including disused tube stations still actually exists, and is in remarkable good state.
For me, this is a much more convincing tale than the two earlier installments of the Max Wolfe casebook. I finished The Hanging Club in just a couple of long sessions, such was its grip. Even Wolfe’s obsession with his pet dog is only mildly irritating. You may share my view that for a humble DC, Wolfe certainly gets to be a bigger cheese in major investigations than his rank would normally allow, but this is only a crime novel, and a thoroughly enjoyable one at that.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars