Review: The Hanged Man’s Ghost (Night Wars #1) by Missouri Dalton

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Hanged Man's GhostFynn Adder’s life is on a downward spiral and he is doing his best to speed it up.  Since the murder of his longtime lover, Flynn has spent his free time in a drunken haze,  the alcohol contributing to his frequent sexual hookups and increasingly disastrous personal decisions. Only his professional life is currently stable, but that is due more to the efforts of his partner, Jack Winchester,  than to his own discretion.  Flynn Adder is a detective with the Chicago Police Department, and a son of a famous Chicago irish police family.  And because of his family name and reputation, Fynn’s actions and career are under greater scrutiny, a fact not lost on Fynn.

When a girl is murdered, the case is muddied immediately when the trail of clues point in the direction of Fynn’s family and the death of his lover.  That case went unsolved and now it appears the two are connected. With his Captain,partner and family expressing their concerns about his erratic behavior and drinking, Fynn tries concentrating on the strange clues he is unearthing, they just aren’t making sense.

As more murders occur, all the clues point to a supernatural rather than rational explanation. Then Internal Affairs agent Daniel Voight enters the picture.  Voight is determined to prove Adder a dirty cop and will let nothing, even the truth, stand in his way.  The only aspect of Adder’s life that brings him happiness is his relationship with his police partner, Jack.  Fynn has had a crush on his married partner for years and been happy to just be included as a friend in Jack’s life.  But even that aspect of Fynn’s life is undergoing a major change.

With all the clues pointing back to Fynn’s past and the murderer taunting him with mysterious messages he can’t decipher, the stress and unnatural events push Fynn past the breaking point.  If the murderer  is to be caught and the killings stopped, Fynn will need to reach out for help and support in places he never expected and soon before he and those he loves are caught in the Hanged Man’s noose.

I loved this book and fell under its spell immediately, as I should have.  But I didn’t come to this series in a straightforward manner.  I started with The Night Shift (Night Wars #2), than the 3rd installment, The Hellfire Legacy, and by doing so, did this series a real injustice.  Trust me when I say this is an addicting, enthralling series with something for everyone to love.  And I would have known that sooner had I read them in the order they were written and should have been read.  Mea culpa indeed.  But let’s get back to the beginning and The Hanged Man’s Ghost.

Missouri Dalton’s characters are a wonder.  Fynn is especially surprising.  He comes from a large irish family in Chicago whose members have always been part of the Chicago PD rank and file.  But unlike his father and brother, Fynn is not your burly Irishman but rather a slender blond with a penchant for knitting and booze.  He is also gay, out with a large supportive family behind him.  Not that it seems to matter when we first meet him.  The author has created a back history for Fynn that is incredibly complex and is only slowly revealed over the length of the book, both to the reader and to Fynn.  He has been existing in an alcoholic fog since the murder of his longterm lover.  Dalton’s treatment of Fynn’s alcolholism is realistic and grim without giving up any of the character’s wry, and sometimes caustic personality.  It’s a personality you will come to love as much as for it’s power of survival as it is for its wry, self effacing facade.  Here is a taste of Fynn for you:

“You need a lift to the station?” Jack raised an eyebrow.

I shook my head. “Nah, I see my bike.” It was parked three feet from a hydrant. Jack eyed the bike. It was sort of a death trap.

“You were at the club last night.”

“Yeah.” I backed out of striking range.

He stepped closer and grabbed my arm. “Were you drinking?” I looked away. “Damn it, Fynn, were you?”

“Yeah.” He usually managed to make me feel guilty about these things.      He shook his head and let go of my arm. “He could suspend you, take you off this case.”

“I know.” At least he didn’t hit me, but from the ache in my arm, I’d bet it was bruising. Sometimes it sucked to have pale Irish skin.

“At least tell me you’re still seeing the shrink.” My silence was answer enough. “If you want to kill yourself, Fynn, that’s your business. But don’t you dare think it doesn’t affect the rest of us.” He stormed off. Good old Jack, still trying to save me from myself.

The weariness of that  voice gets inside of you, and the force of the personality behind that voice makes the reader want to help him out of the gutter he has tossed himself into.  And this is just the beginning.

Dalton starts bringing in Fynn’s large family, each a well drawn character, and the mystery that surrounds them.  We also get to know Jack, his wife and his precocious daughter too, and come to care for at least two of them just as the author intends. And as Dalton grounds Fynn with his family and Jack, she connects the reader intimately with them and we become invested in their survival.  A survival that becomes increasingly precarious as the murderer starts targeting people around Fynn. Piece by supernatural piece starts to position itself in the story, as the plot lines start to crisscross, and some surprising and chilling twists arrive around each plot corner.  Make no mistake, there are some truly haunting and suspenseful aspects to this story, beautifully conceived and written.

The tough thing about this story is that it is so complex and every little nuance will take on greater import as the story and the series progress.  Things I would have overlooked as inconsequential here had I read this book first, now took on a larger role because I knew what lay behind the slight descriptions so casually thrown away inside this book.  The narrative reminds me of that magazine Hidden Pictures.  There are clues and small stories to be found everywhere as the author is constructing a much larger story outside of The Hanged Man’s Ghost.  This just absolutely delighted me with its complexity while never forgetting that the story and the series has a  very human heart, that of Fynn Adder and those he loves.

Another thread that weaves itself through Fynn’s life and the story is his knitting, a subject near to my heart as a knitter as well.  Here is a little taste of Fynn the knitter:

Cassie’s knitting was in a basket on the left side of the chair I had claimed and I needed a distraction from the tension.

A half-finished pink scarf. Probably for Tara. Cassie would likely not finish it in time for Tara’s birthday.

I picked it up and started a new row. It looked like a simple purl knit purl. Jack raised an eyebrow, I kept knitting. He couldn’t knock my knitting; I’d fixed his sweater the day it got caught in the drawer. With pencils no less.

I intend to track down the author and ask about a certain pattern for a scarf that Fynn knits for himself.  It’s perfection but not one that  can be included in this review.  It is just one more insightful and delightful element that is incorporated into a story that just keeps surprising the deeper into it you go.  The Hanged Man’s Ghost is a cop thriller, a supernatural mystery and a love story.   It chilling, and humorous, and filled with angst. And for the many angles and subject matters that are being juggled here, Missouri Dalton does them all justice and then some, pulling them together for a terrific ending that will leave the reader looking for more.

The editing could be a little tighter and the narrative gets away from itself a  tad towards the middle, otherwise this would be a 5 star rating, My love for the characters and plot far outweigh those  issues, so it really comes close to being perfect. Now the series has become a new favorite of mine.  It will become yours too.  Just don’t make my mistake and start in the middle.  Go right to the beginning, and succumb to the many charms and chills of the Night Wars series and Missouri Dalton’s characters.  You won’t be sorry.

Here are the books as they were written and should be read:

The Hanged Man’s Ghost (Night Wars #01)

The Night Shift (Night Wars #02) – please note revised rating and additional comments at the beginning.

The Hellfire Legacy (Night Wars #03)

Alessia Brio is the cover artist for this book and the series.  I think the artist did a great job in branding the series while keeping each cover true to the story within.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 276 pages
Published February 1st 2012 by Torquere Press
ISBN 1610407091 (ISBN13: 9781610407090)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=97&products_id=3507
seriesThe Night Wars #01