Published by The Book Guild Ltd on February 25 2018
Also by this author: The Fourth Victim
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.
Author John Mead was born in Dagenham and now lives in Hornchurch, Essex. John has a BSc (Hons), MBA and a PGCE – he now works in education.
Look at the cover, I mean really look at the cover. If that doesn’t call you to attention, then you need to look again and then read the blurb and look again! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend this in a heartbeat, albeit in some sections I did get a bit confused with the connections between the gangs and the people, but more about that later.
Such a perfect time setting, 1886 Chicago, so we have no mobiles, no internet, no social media….bliss! Relying on good old fashion crime sleuths solving the crime in 18 days, I mean whoop whoop. To me, this is some classic detective work, a guy everyone loves to hate, I included, working the scenes and connecting the dots the old-fashioned way.
Two women are found hanging upside down by their alternate ankles in an abandoned warehouse, one white woman and one black woman. The black woman, the daughter of a highly respected Reverend, she was a piano teacher but was she led astray? The white woman, an undercover spy in the sweatshops, investigating her own factories. So how did they end up together hanging?
Jack Stevens, the main sleuth, ex-military and ex-sheriff, now a full time drunk in line for a Governor position, finds the hanging women and calls it in. He can’t let go of the case, and he needs to find out who Chicago Joe is and who killed the women! So do we!! There not many likeable characters in this book, Jack the main protagonist, is rude, arrogant, cheating on his wife with his wife’s godson’s sister, (still with me) oh and as mentioned before drunk basically all the time. I would feel sorry for his wife, Martha, with what she has been put through, Jack being presumed dead for two years and so she moved on. Yet, when Jack comes home she starts sleeping with someone else too, made for each other right?!
The story is not linear, we have a few different storylines going on at once, and you need to pay attention when reading so you know who is narrating as it is not always clear. The story is told from the points of view of Jack and Martha, both with their own missions, the reader knowing at some point their lives are going to cross over and everything will come crashing down and out in the open. I loved that there was so much going on as you never knew what you would discover next.
As mentioned before, my struggle with the book is I felt like I was missing something with the connections with the gangs and who was who. I felt like this book could have been part of a series where everything had been explained before. So I spent some of the book being slightly confused and flicking back to see if I could find a mention of them before. I did, however, fly through this book when I got used to the writing style and I ended up having a soft spot for Jack Stevens himself!!
If you want to know how the two women ended up being hung, if Jack will get caught with his woman, if Martha will get caught with her, who Chicago Joe is….well you know what to do…read the book!
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges: