The Hanged Man opens up with, you guessed it, a hanged man. And that is the last predictable thing about this Victorian mystery. Elrod’s writing is subtle and even a careful reader may miss the hints along the way, making this book double fun—trying to guess what’s going to happen next and pick out the clues in Elrod’s prose.
The protagonist, one Alexandrina Victoria Pendlebury, works for the Psychic Service, a part of the Queen’s government that collaborates with Scotland Yard to solve crime. Alex can read emotions, using her abilities to get a sense of liars, murderers, and what events have recently happened in a space. She also has a hilarious habit of nodding and smiling when someone tells her to do something, and then going straight ahead with doing what she wants to do. This trait slightly contradicts her good breeding as a well-mannered woman, but it also makes her feel real because here’s a woman who is caught between following her gut and following the rules. It also makes Alex comes across as a three-dimensional character. She’s strong without being obnoxious, has moments of vulnerability as well as cleverness, and manages to, above all, stick to finding out what menace is stalking the London streets.
Although the story tackles some familiar ground with secret societies and Victorian flagrancy behind closed doors, there are twists that keep The Hanged Man fresh and engaging. Another plus, Elrod also doesn’t automatically set up for another book (or two or three), so there is no huge commitment to waiting for multiple installments. This story finishes and satisfies in its 300+ pages. But I would return to find out more of Alex’s story if Elrod is so inclined to share it.
Kitty Shields is a writer, artist, bookbinder, and all around troublemaker. She is about to graduate from Arcadia with her MFA in Creative Writing. When not working on her novel, she spends way too much time taking pictures of an art figurine she has dubbed Miss Vivi. Feel free to check her out at kittyshields.com or follow her on Instagram @kittyshields