The Hangman’s Hold (2018) by Michael Wood

Brian Appleby has been trying to make a new start with his life. Finally plucking up the courage, he tries online dating and has a pleasant evening with a lovely lady called Adele. Yes, he had to lie several times about his past, but it seemed to go well. Until he returned home, to find a hooded figure waiting for him. The next day, he is found hanging by his neck…

As Brian’s past is revealed, it seems that there is a vigilante on the loose, eking out punishment for past sins. DCI Matilda Darke, a woman not without her own past, and her team are put on the case, but as the body count rises, the killer turns his sights on her…

Yes, it’s time for my irregular dip into the modern police procedural genre. I gave this one a try because I saw a tweet saying it was reduced and thought, what the hell? The premise didn’t sound desperately original, but you could say that about a lot of police procedurals – it’s how the writer sells the tale. Did I like the characters? Did I like plot twists? And so on…

First off, I thought this was a real page-turner, and I ploughed through it quickly, not really putting it down much at all. The majority of the book is well paced – I thought the ending was a little protracted – and I wanted to see where the author was going with this. The killer’s identity was interesting (has the author read some Chesterton?) although their motivations seemed a little slight to me for them to go off on such a spree.

What I’m still in two minds about is Matilda Darke, a character with so many traumas in her past, I really don’t see how she would be allowed to run a major crimes unit. Couple that with the author’s determination to heap more and more misery on her as the tale progresses, I’d not be surprised if the next book starts with her in a straightjacket, drooling at the padded walls of her cell.

The remaining (non-traumatised) members of the team are a nice bunch, although early on, it felt a little as if I was expected to know them from the previous books (the ones that I haven’t read) so it took a little while to get to know them.

All in all, it’s interesting and worth a look if you like the genre, but with one or two other series that I’ve dipped into and out of again, there needs to be more light to contrast the dark – give Matilda a break next time!


  1. “There needs to be more light to contrast the dark”

    I think that nicely expresses what I dislike about most modern crime novels:the prevailing attitude is clearly that there just needs to be still more dark. And darker dark is easy to write — and film! It shows a lack of imagination IMO.

    I’d be curious to see how you react to Andrew Vacchs. (That is emphatically NOT a recommendation btw! )


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