The Hanging Murders
By Rex Carothers
1957. California. A serial murderer has returned after a fifteen year absence. Sheriff Cobb, though, is still drowning his sorrows over a failed marriage and the death of his wife and child with alcohol. When his former partner is killed, he makes the decision to find the killer. Thus begins a complex tale of murder, greed, corruption, and lust.
I accept books for review based on many things. Some are more important than others but all have a factor in my decision. The blurb given to me by the author or Amazon, the subject matter, book cover (yes, I do and you do, too so admit it), the author’s request, and whether any of the above catches my interest.
When I accepted this book, I expected a cool mystery with a serial killer, and a raw, gritty story. Raw, yes, but not in the way I meant. The plot, which I thought would revolve around the title, did not, for the most part. This was the first of many disappointments about this book.
Jim Cobb: County sheriff, wife and child dead, former army, mom dead
Jasper Fowler: Nickname of ‘Red’, county deputy, 63, burly, white hair
Merrill Cobb: Jim’s father, former sheriff
Conchita Ramirez: housekeeper/cook, has a sister
Archie Reid: 28, trucker driver, 6’, lanky, dark hair, pale blue eyes, former army
There are a several more characters. For the most part, they’re distinct and each has a role to play. There is one unnamed character which I’ll address later. And, for the most, part, I could ‘see’ the characters and thought they held their own.
A problem I had with Cobb, is he visits a dead guy’s house wondering where his secret cache is. However, he doesn’t spend too much time looking for it and comes away with some paperwork. Another baddie comes in and goes right for the hidey-hole. I thought Cobb was a bit incompetent in this area.
There’s a reporter who is really a throwaway filler character who pretty much disappears by the latter quarter of the book and isn’t mentioned again.
Again, not too bad, varying voices.
Profanity. This is a shorter book (141 pages in my Nook).
So, where to begin. This book has a lot of problems, so I’ll start with the POV. It’s first person from Cobb’s when he’s in the scene. But not always and that was weird. Either do it first person with him always or do it all third. Those not with Cobb (and some with as just mentioned) are third person from various POV.
Tense problems. The author writes sentences in present tense then in past tense and sometimes both in a sentence.
Misspelled and missing words. The latter really threw me because I had to go back and fill in the missing word to complete the sentence.
Punctuation errors. Commas thrown willy-nilly into sentences.
This book is chock full of sex, willing and unwilling. Very few characters don’t have sex or talk about previous sex.
There is a time problem. Archie visits his mom’s house and gets directions to a cabin. Subsequently, Cobb, coming back from another murder, where he spent a lot of time, stops at Archie’s mom’s house, then goes off to the cabin. The problem is that Cobb gets there first, there’s a gun battle and after a guy is arrested, Archie THEN shows up.
Before I get to the main issue, let me address this unknown character. There are three ‘sets’ of murders. The hanging murders (killer at the end is found and known), the murder of Haskel (killer at the end is found and known), and a series of random murders by this unknown guy driving a Chevy truck. Here’s the weird part of this – this latter killer is never named, and his identity is never discovered or revealed. So, why include him other than have his killings be mentioned a couple times by the regular characters who don’t seem to put much effort into investigating. It didn’t make sense. I kept trying to put one of the named characters in this role, but it turned out it wasn’t any of them and I’m sorry to play a bit of a spoiler here.
The main issue is repetition. Phraseology, descriptions, and parts of sentences are repeated…a lot. Red’s age is mentioned twice, the fact there were no suspects, no fingerprints, no evidence found in the previous killings is repeated. The last twenty pages has countless repetitions by various characters and the narrator of “Who killed Barton Haskel?” This repetition was bad writing and should not have been so prevalent in this short of a book.
With all of these problems, I quickly dropped my ranking and ended up having to go to the bottom.