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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mo's Standalone is a goodie, 2 May 2011
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This review is from: Hanging Hill (Hardcover)
In what I assume is the third 'stand-alone' novel from Mo Hayder (after the outstanding Tokyo and opinion-dividing Pig Island), Hanging Hill is set in the author's current-day homeland in and around Bath and is based on two long-estranged sisters Sally and ZoŽ Benedict who by something of a credibility-stretching coincidence are brought together by a combination of the murder of a teenage girl and the seemingly unrelated disappearance of a wealthy but sleazy businessman. ZoŽ is a headstrong police detective with a shadowy past, Sally a very different easy-going single-mum struggling to make ends meet. The thread to the story begins with the brutal murder of sixteen-year-old Lorne Wood, a former schoolfriend of Sally's daughter Millie - and ZoŽ is brought in to investigate. Meanwhile Sally gets an opportunity to boost her income by working part-time in the mansion of a man who has made his fortune in the world of pornography but who may or may not be targeted by a London-based man suspected of trafficking girls from Kosovo.

Although most of the fundamental components of a good story are carried off with professional aplomb - prose, character-building and the creation of suspense and tension - it never quite gelled until the final quarter when it became quite gripping. One of my main concerns had been that while ZoŽ is a police detective she rarely seemed to act like one and in fact very nearly all of her activities within this tale are independent and outside of the murder investigation; it felt as if being a cop was almost an incidental part of her make-up even if as a character she was more than interesting. One of the more intriguing elements to her persona was the habit of self-harming, and the author should be commended for not flinching in her willingness or ability to describe it quite intimately. There is another scene that is also narrated with almost disturbing intimacy, I won't mention it for fear of spoiling things but it was a welcome return to the style of writing that made Mo Hayder a success from day one. I can't help but wonder if in a future story ZoŽ could meet up with Mo's well-known Bristol-based detective Jack Caffery, another tortured soul if ever there was one.

It's interesting to read Mo Hayder's comments on her own forum and how she withdrew from regular online interaction with her readers following her first two novels Birdman and The Treatment because she "had months of online abuse which very nearly stopped me writing altogether. I can't lie - writers aren't superhuman and we do get hurt by criticism. Hence my decision not to read anything online which is why my contributions to this site and to Facebook are so painful and limited." It makes me wonder if the very visible 'toning-down' of her storylines later on, making them less controversial and provocative, is a consequence of this. I continue to regard Mo as a very good writer of crime fiction tales, she's still one of the best, but I do wish she would shake off those self-imposed restraints in the way she did some ten years ago, when she wrote cutting-edge narratives with hardly a care for what reaction they might cause. These days she's a better all-round writer but the self-censorship is still apparent. Hanging Hill is a good story and I'm glad I pre-ordered it in hardback. It hasn't put me off doing the same thing again this time next year, but I keep hoping she'll dare to write in the dark, ruthless way that she did when she first came onto the scene.

Thanks to Roman Clodia for saying "Excellent review! Thanks for giving a feel for the book without giving away the plot - I haven't read this yet but am looking forward to it" and to Rosie Reader for saying "An excellent review and i couldnt agree more with every word - thank you"
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Sep 2011 19:43:12 BDT
S. D. Coram says:
A highly intelligent and informative review. Thank you!

Posted on 11 Jan 2012 17:38:47 GMT
Agree with your comments...good review and observations
Her first books were terrifying but then more restraint and slight 'change' of writing. But hope she is emerging afresh with her unusual style
Sue

Posted on 12 Jan 2012 00:50:16 GMT
Miss J. Shaw says:
If the book is as good as this review I'll be happy, this will be the 5th Mo Hayder book I've purchased from Amazon, I'm glad I read the review and can't wait to read the book in order to form my own opinions. I must say my favourite so far has to be Tokyo, but Pig Island really gripped me also, I'm afraid I may be disappointed with Hanging Hill.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2012 01:08:07 GMT
Last edited by the author on 13 Feb 2012 02:14:15 GMT
OEJ says:
Thanks everybody - and can I add that Tokyo is also my favourite Mo Hayder story, and a memorable one. It's the one that really nailed me as a fan.

Miss Shaw, I reckon if you liked four previous Mo novels, you'll like Hanging Hill just as much. Don't think about it - just do it!

As of today's date - 12th Jan 2012 - it's not showing on the Amazon listings yet, but Mo says her next novel will be QUIET DAY (provisional title that may change), and will be coming out 'in the summer'. If I remember correctly, it's another Jack Caffery tale.

See http://www.mohayder.net/newsletters/edition6-Dec2011.html

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Apr 2012 16:38:25 BDT
Saif A. khan says:
Thanks for the excellent review (nothing that hasn't been said here before but well... it's true!)

I was utterly gripped by "The Treatment", the first Hayder book I read. As noticed above by others the terrifying quality of her first two books was almost unreal. The following books, especially in the Jack Caffrey series, did seem 'watered down'. Now, thanks to your review, I see the probable reason.

But with this book, she seems to be arriving at some sort of a balance. Still holding back the graphic depiction of the physical violence but maintaining a sense of menace and nastiness. I mean, look the ending here!

I also love her other two stand-alones and for some reason lean more in favor of Pig Island - which reads like a fever induced nightmare ending in an unexpected splash of ice cold water on the face!

I eagerly look forward to her forthcoming books and also hope that you would continue to comment on her books too!

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Apr 2012 17:01:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Apr 2013 13:33:43 BDT
OEJ says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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