Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Tor Books
Source: Raincoast Books
I had been hankering after a good fantasy/paranormal novel and when I saw this on Goodreads, I hurriedly requested it because questionable hat aside, the cover is atmospheric as is the backcopy. Besides, who doesn’t want to read about female sleuths who live in an alternate historical England and have paranormal powers and solve crimes using these powers.
The premise is really as I stated: Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury lives on Baker Street (I see the allusion) in an alternate historical England where women have the vote and psychics are a bit more common than you’d think. A psychic bureau of criminal investigations exists which collects all people with paranormal powers in order to solve crimes. Alex is a Reader which means she can read emotions of a person whether they are in a room or have recently vacated the room. She can track these emotions (which have something equivalent to a fingerprint; the science of it is not really explained) to the culprit or find clues by gauging the emotional variances of the suspects. One day she is woken up in the wee hours of the morning to look over a crime scene of a hanged man–only Alex determines that there was a crime committed and the victim died of external causes and not suicide. Things get heated and emotionally rife when Alex realizes her own relationship to the victim and the readers are off on an adventure containing air guns, shapeshifters, and a very capable and fun heroine.
I enjoyed this novel quite a bit. I found that the pace is initially slow but speeds up once the all the pieces are in place. Alex is a fantastic protagonist and I enjoyed being in her head as she fights against the tyranny of her supervisor and gets into sticky situations that she gets herself out of without waiting for a man to save her. I loved the setting as well–I am a sucker for English settings and the language is delightfully archaic without being overwhelming. The romance wasn’t my favourite as I do tend to like spicier fare and the love interest in question is a bit too bland for my taste. There are some other candidates whom I would happily replace with the one we are given but I am willing to accept things and move on as long as the cases/mysteries remain intriguing.
The Hanged Man is entertaining fare, bringing to life a much more illuminated and modern England than reality gives us. Alex, her family and colleagues pack a lot of action, drama, and intrigue in 333 pages. I enjoyed James Fonteyn (Alex’s cousin) quite a bit and hope to see a lot more of him in future installments of the series. If you’re looking for an entertaining read and are in the mood for gaslight fiction, this is the book for you.