The Hanging Club

The third novel in Tony Parsons's Max Wolfe crime series (after The Slaughter Man) brings the London detective constable face to face with a group of domestic terrorists. The four vigilantes make headlines when they kidnap a taxi driver, execute him by hanging and post a video of the act on YouTube. The victim turns out to be a man convicted of abusing young girls. He received a light sentence, so now this gang of killers--using the identity of Albert Pierrepoint, England's executioner in the mid-20th century--seeks justice.

And they are just getting started. When they repeat their crime with a rich businessman who killed a young boy while driving drunk, and then a drug addict who beat a destitute war veteran into a coma, Max and the murder investigation team delve into England's history of capital punishment for clues to uncover the Hanging Club.

While many Londoners cheer on the vigilantes, viewing them as heroes who deliver justice when the legal system does not, Parsons throws a wrench into Wolfe's beliefs by forcing him to deal with unfair circumstances in his own life. The philosophical conundrum adds heft to an already weighty story that challenges the morality of the death penalty.

But the gravity of themes doesn't slow the pace of the plot, which moves swiftly and intensely. Parsons has a tendency to unnecessarily repeat details throughout the novel--something tighter editing could have improved. Nevertheless, The Hanging Club is a riveting thriller and a strong addition to the series. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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