Michael Wood

The Hangman’s Hold

""Matilda Darke is a very well-drawn character with strengths that make her a convincing DI..." "


The book opens with Darke's close friend Adele, going on a date via an internet site and meeting Brian, a man with whom she feels a real connection. But Brian has a secret – he is a sex offender who served time in prison and is on the sex offenders' register. Brian is found hanged the next day. At first, the police are unable to account for his death, but as the body count mounts, it becomes clear that there is a vigilante killer at work who believes he is administering justice to his victims.

Matilda Darke and her team take on the case. Matilda becomes the focus of intense publicity as the case develops. She is already struggling with new members of her team, self-doubt, her unresolved grief and guilt over the death of her husband, and guilt over a case where, through decisions she made, she failed to find a young boy. Her stability is in jeopardy as the killer starts targeting her by direct communication both with her and with local media. An ambitious young reporter pursues the case single-mindedly, using the killer's supposed connection with Matilda to produce sensational headlines that hit the front pages both locally, and eventually, nationally. The narrative is complex – those readers who like twists and turns will appreciate this as Matilda and her team pursue, and are constantly out-thought by, this very dangerous killer. It soon becomes clear he must be getting information from a source within the police force.

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'The Hangman's Hold' is number four in Michael Wood's Sheffield-based Matilda Darke series. A serial killer is at work in the city, someone who identifies those who have committed, in the eyes of the killer, serious crimes in the past for which they have not been sufficiently punished. And for this killer, only one sentence is appropriate – death. With each death – and Wood is adept at presenting an everyday scenario that twists suddenly into a nightmare – the pressure on Matilda is ratcheted up. This is not helped by the guilt she feels when she finds herself drawn to the profiler who is helping the police with the case. So soon after her husband's death, how can she feel like this? And then the killer moves even closer. Matilda Darke is a very well-drawn character with strengths that make her a convincing DI, but with weaknesses that can put this role at risk. Wood has shown in the past that he intends to give his heroine no quarter, and in 'The Hangman's Hold', Matilda is once again put through Wood's metaphorical wringer. It is probably no spoiler to say that she survives - intact, but not unscathed. This is a satisfying thriller, and for many readers, this is enough. However, Wood also addresses important current issues – the nature of justice, vigilantism, the role of the media and the willingness of people to blame monsters rather than look for solutions. This book is a worthy follow-up to the three previous books in the series. It works as a standalone, but new readers might be better advised to start at the beginning to appreciate all the subtleties of the story arcs Wood is developing. And, no doubt, he is currently sitting over his cauldron heating up the metaphorical boiling oil in which he plans to immerse Matilda next time through. Can't wait!

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