Hanging Murder

Written by A. J. Wright
Review by Julia Stoneham

Hanging Murder is the latest in A. J Wright’s series of “Lancashire Detective Mysteries”. In the bleak, monochrome chill of Wigan in the winter of 1891, Mr Simeon Crosby, newly retired public hangman, is busily promoting his new ambition, which is to make his name as a writer, retelling details of his macabre career by publicly recounting, to audiences in industrial northern towns, the thrilling details of his experiences while despatching criminals to Hell via the gallows.

Public controversy is already growing regarding the legitimacy of capital punishment, and Detective Sergeant Brennan of Wigan’s police department is charged with preserving the town’s peace in view of the threat posed by the small group of protestors who are expected to attend the event. When first one and then a second murder takes place, the situation escalates into an intriguing and highly complex “whodunnit”.

A fascinating plethora of suspects and victims emerges. The central characters, perhaps especially the delightful Sergeant Brennan, are all convincingly realised, developed and satisfactorily resolved. The style and tone of the dialogue, plus the descriptions of the characters, evoke L. S. Lowry. One really can smell those murky pubs, reeking of beer and tobacco smoke. A most enjoyable read.