You never know quite what to expect when you crack open a novel from a new or new to you author. I missed Daniel Cole’s, Ragdoll – so the follow up, Hangman, it’s cast of characters and storyline was totally new to me. When I delved in, there was a a not unfamiliar chill that ran up my spine. I quickly concluded that it was the same chill I felt when I cracked open Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon, the book that first introduced us to the Hannibal Lecter character and the precursor to Silence of the Lambs.
This is not to say that Cole has copped a Lecter-like character as much as to say that he has spun a twisted, psychological thriller that is intricate and engrossing, and is bound to have you guessing every step of the way. Cole does a masterful job of delivering devastatingly unexpected twists. Bodies begin to appear, strung up in very public places, each etched with messages carved into their chests that proclaim “Bait” or “Puppet.” The question gets posited, is the Ragdoll killer back in action or a copycat, or is it a twisted new killer.
The carnage soon moves from London to New York City with a kicked up element of terror. Irascible and cranky, Detective Emily Baxter is back in a lead role in the investigation on both sides of the Atlantic. This time she gets paired with a British expat – CIA officer – Rouche, a mysterious character chock full of contradictions and nuances. At points I was convinced that he was behind the growing body count based on his loner quality. Cole plays out just enough of his personal life, to make Rouche to be just the right amount of sympathetic.
The story plays out in twists and turns, has Cole offers up red herrings and wrong turns as to who the master of puppets really is. Things get ratcheted up with each step along the way to the very frantic close. Even experienced mystery solvers and thriller fans will be left second guessing their deductions. Cole even manages to re-bait the hook and the end, for wherever the story is going next.