Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bookish Thoughts: A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage

This is a day unlike any other day, ever, in the history of the world. ~ Opening of A Penny for the Hangman


A Penny for the Hangman by Tom Savage
Alibi, 2014
Crime Fiction; 259 pgs

New York journalist, Karen Tyler, has ambition in spades; and so when an anonymous caller offers her a juicy story about unknown facts in an infamous murder case, how can she resist? Fifty years before, two privileged teenage boys were arrested and convicted for the brutal murder of their parents. A new movie is about to be released and renewed attention in the case is high. Karen jumps at the chance to go to the scene of the crime on the beautiful Caribbean Island of St. Thomas when invited by her secretive source, sure that he is one of the killers. Karen's best laid plans are upended when her host implements his own. Then it's a race to see who comes out alive, if anyone.

Let's set aside the fact that Karen seems a bit too naive for an experienced reporter, and that she needs a good dose of skepticism and caution, my only real quibble with the book. Even with that, I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Penny for the Hangman. It was intense and suspenseful with an interesting twisty plot.  Much of the time I was felt the author knew the reader would be on top of everything going on and it was really more a matter of seeing how Karen handled it all. Whereas in some books this style of writing takes away some of the intensity, it felt perfect for this type of tale.

The novel is written as if it is a book compiled of Karen's journal entries, her news articles, book excerpts from a book written by the arresting officer, and journal entries of one of the killers, along with narrative of events as they unfold. It was an effective mode of storytelling, especially in building up the suspense as the story went along. You get a little history into the boys' mindsets and their relationship as well of Karen's experiences too.  Wulf and Rodney, the two boys convicted of the murders, were interesting characters to say the least.

This novel brought to mind the Lyle and Eric Mendendez trial that took place while I was in the middle of my undergraduate studies back in the early 1990's.  They were two real life murderers who killed their parents. I had a professor who knew the family and was very upset by the allegations that came out. While this particular case was never alluded to in the novel, other famous murders were mentioned that the reader is sure to recognize. I always like it when an author adds real life details into novels that way. It lends an authenticity a novel, I think.

While some might find events in this novel to be a little over the top at times, it was all a part of the roller coaster ride that made the novel so fun and exciting. A Penny for the Hangman was an entertaining and difficult to put down novel. It makes for a great read, especially if you want something fast paced and full of suspense.  

Rating: * (Good +)

To learn more about Tom Savage and his books, please visit the author's website

I hope you will check out what others had to say about A Penny for the Hangman on the TLC Book Tours route!



Many thanks to the TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to be a part of this book tour. The publisher provided me with an e-copy for review.




© 2014, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


22 comments:

  1. I enjoy stories that are told in a less traditional manner like that one so would like to give this book a try.

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    1. Kathy - I think the author does a good job of mixing up the narrative in this case. It's definitely less traditional.

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  2. I love fast-paced and intense novels, and A Penny for the Hangman sounds like an entertaining read! I also like the idea of using journal entries and news articles to add to the authentic feel.

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    1. Jenclair - I almost gave this one four paws because I had such fun reading it. Ultimately I didn't because of my thoughts about the main character.

      One of the things I loved most about the narrative style was that it really left it open ended whether the main character would make it out alive or not. It added to the suspense.

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  3. Alas not a big fan of books in which journal entries and the like form part of the narrative I think I'll give this one a miss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts though, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. Tracy - Letters and journal entries in book narratives do not always appeal to me either. It really depends on how it is done. I thought it worked in this case, especially given the way the story is presented. It would have lost something had it been told as a more traditional story, I think.

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  4. I'm curious about this one. I like the investigative reporter angle and when done right the journal entry setup can be really great. I'll be prepared for Karen's being a bit naive though. Great review. I hadn't heard of this one but it looks like one I'd enjoy especially when I need a little something darker mixed in with the cozies!

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    1. Katherine - I like investigative reporter leads too. They are in the perfect position to get into the middle of an investigation and yet be on the outside as well.

      I did like Karen, but I would have liked her to have been more on top of her game. I found myself trying to excuse her by reminding myself she was just an entertainment journalist, but that's not really fair. There's no "just" about it.

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  5. I like the sound of this book and how it has some kind of epistolary aspect to its storytelling. I am going to have to check this one out.

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  6. I'm curious about this book, not only of the premise but the overall writing style. Thanks for the lovely review, Wendy!

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    1. Melody - Thanks! I liked the way the story was set up very much. It was different and it made for an even more suspenseful read.

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  7. I've never read a Tom Savage book. Time to diversify, eh?

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    1. Crystal - This was my first by the author, but it won't be my last.

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  8. I immediately thought of the Mendendez case when I read your first paragraph. Were there lots of parallels between the real-life case and the fictional one in this book?

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    1. A.M.B. - You too! And you haven't even read it. :-) I thought there were some parallels between the two, although they were also very different.

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  9. The premise sounds interesting, and I am intrigued by the journal entry/news clipping format.

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    1. Irene - I was intrigued enough to give it a try despite my effort to avoid any more tours this month. I am glad I read it. :-)

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  10. I can imagine that this one would be hard to put down ... I can't wait to read it!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

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    1. Heather - It was hard to put down. I hope you enjoy it!

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  11. Sounds just different enough to make it interesting. So many thriller/pi stories blend together.

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    1. Stacy - Yes, I thought it was different enough to stand out.

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