The Hanging Women opens with former lawman and now wealthy businessman, Jack Stevens, discovering the gruesome murder scene of two women, one white, one black. The murder scene is staged to send a message, but what and from whom?
Though it’s obvious from Jack’s astute observations of the scene he has a keen mind, sharp intellect and knowledge of the seedier parts of life, Jack also has a problem with the bottle, drinking to excess to drown out demons from his past. Unable to account for the last day and a half, Jack is, at least temporarily, a suspect in the murders of the women he so conveniently ‘found.’
Not waiting to be ruled out as a suspect, Stevens begins his own investigation into the murders, much to the consternation of local authorities and the collaborating Pinkertons.
Jack Stevens is a messy protagonist… perfectly messy. Aging not-gracefully, he’s rude, ill-tempered, and has no problem delivering his own version of the truth. Shaped by the events and circumstances of his life, Jack is unapologetic. He has regrets but he does not dwell on them. He just wants the nightmares to stop.
The story moves slowly at first as the two young women must be identified to move the case forward, and Jack tries to retrace his steps over the last thirty-six to forty-eight hours to find out where he was and what he did.
The Hanging Women has a large cast of characters, memorable as much for their nicknames as their part in this suspenseful whodunit. Names like Pug, Pinky, Banjo, Boat, and Cage flow from the pages… and those are just a few of the good guys!
However, there is a fine line between good and bad as there seems to be little anyone is not willing to do to achieve their goals. This being 1880s Chicago, it’s a battle of manpower and egos as labor groups, ethnic street gangs and corrupt officials jockey for power and control of the city.
Much time and many lives could have been saved had the women been in charge. (Okay, maybe not the lives. HA!)
Kudos to the author for not just delivering strong female characters, but women of substance who are to be reckoned with… if you live.
Two of these women are Martha Stevens and Kathleen ‘Kitty’ McGuire Tipwell… Jack’s wife and mistress. Don’t judge them or their situations. Both women play pivotal roles and are involved in plot twists I did not see coming!
Desperate to be independent and live as she chooses, the savvy Kitty moves in and among areas of the city and society a woman of her status should know nothing about.
Though well-respected by most who know her, wife and grandmother, Martha, is anything but matronly. She helps her lover plan a robbery then helps her husband cover it up. But it’s when she forms an alliance with Kitty that even Jack shuts up!
Clues as to who killed Philomena Blackstaff and Mary Walsh are piling up… but so are more bodies. Are all the murders connected? Is there a serial killer or is it just bizarre coincidence? Is Nina O’Shea the most ruthless person in Chicago?
The suspense level of The Hanging Women is high. But I believe it’s outdone by its own intrigue. Some of the most minute details and even tedious mentions foreshadow events and connections to come. Readers of thrillers and suspense will enjoy this well-written read. Mystery lovers will get a kick out of the plot twists. There’s even something here for women’s fiction and romance readers. As Martha Stevens said, “It is odd that there should be so much love at the center of all these horrific acts.”
A historical crime thriller set in 1886 Chicago; the powerhouse 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 extremist factions of the worker’s 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.
Amazon UK | Amazon US