Review: Gallows Hill

Dear Constant Reader,

I have a new book for you! It has absolutely nothing to do with burlesque other than the author and I have played on a couple of the same bills. You may know him as Rory Raven, mentalist and author of several books on unusual aspects of Rhode Island history (like Haunted Providence: Strange Tales from the Smallest State and Wicked Conduct: The Minister, the Mill Girl and the Murder that Captivated Old Rhode Island). This is his debut novel under his nom de plume for fiction.

Gallows Hill by Rory O’Brien (2014).

I am passionately fond of detective novels, so I was planning to read this at some point. Then a copy turned up at Stately Babydoll Manor, courtesy of the author, so I dove in.

On his first day back on the job Salem police detective Andrew Lennox did not expect to find a hanged man on Gallows Hill, on which the accused witches supposedly met their fate*. Add to this a very cold case and he’s got his hands full. Not to mention that his personal life is kind of a mess right now. As he and his partner, Sargent Michelle Ouellette, discover closely guarded secrets, the reasons behind the murders begin to emerge. And murderers aren’t the only ones keeping secrets. Obviously I don’t want to get much deeper into the plot.

It’s less of a whodunit and more of a “how-do-we-prove-they-dunit”, as the perpetrators become apparent, but the evidence does not. Unlike a lot of crime fiction I’ve read, the reasons for and details of the murders are actually believable. The two murders being investigated have nice parallels despite being completely unrelated cases.

I enjoyed the rich details of the setting. The author knows Salem very well and is clearly delighted in the mix of several centuries of history and tourist kitsch. You’ll learn quite a bit about the local history, but the facts are important to the story and never too pedantic.

I’m looking forward to further adventures of Detective Lennox and his Quebecois-cursing, cufflink-wearing partner. There are plenty of hooks for further character development, so it seems likely that we will see them again.

For more of Rory O’Brien’s work, you can read the serial Summerland. It’s not finished yet, but there are about 20 chapters to enjoy.

*It was most likely elsewhere, but you’ll discover that when you read the book.

Published in: on 26 March 2014 at 10:24 am  Leave a Comment  

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