The Hangman by Mary Burton

The Hangman by Mary BurtonNarrated by Christina Traister

I’m always on the lookout for good romantic suspense. I tend to like around a 50/50 split between the suspense plot and the romantic relationship and I often find the suspense takes too much of the centre stage for my personal taste. Even so, I keep trying because RS is one of my favourite subgenres to listen to. Last year I discovered Sandra Owens. This year, I discovered Mary Burton. The Hangman probably has more like a 60/40 split when it comes to suspense vs romance but it was enough for me.

Detective Tobias Novak of the Richmond City Police is called to a murder scene in the early hours of the morning. He arrives fresh from the bed of the woman he’s been hooking up with for a few weeks. He’s interested in more of a relationship; she is not. The murder is not fresh. The body has been in a root cellar for 25 years. As it happens, there is a link between the body and the woman Novak has the hots for.

That woman (the woman whose bed Novak just left, not the murder victim) is Agent Julia Vargas of the Virginia State Police. Her father was Detective Jim Vargas who apparently committed suicide some 25 years before, after his investigation into the serial killer dubbed by the media as “the Hangman” failed to bear fruit. Ever since there have been rumours that Jim himself was the killer. Julia has applied to Shield Security to assist her in reinvestigating the case. She wants to know once and for all if her father was a monster.

Shield Security, I gather, is a private investigations firm which is cashed up and which takes on various cold cases in order to solve them. They have access to superior data-matching and facial recognition technology and their forensics lab has no waiting list.

The victim of the murder Novak is looking into has in her wallet a picture of Jim and Julia Vargas from 1992 and thus Julia is drawn in to Novak’s investigation. The two law enforcement officers combine their talents to solve the murder at hand and the earlier case.

Then another victim is found. It has been 25 years. Has the Hangman resurfaced or do they have a copycat on their hands?

While this is happening, Julia’s and Novak’s relationship builds slowly. Julia had been working undercover and things went south when the drug dealer, Benny Santiago, suspected one in his circle of being an informant. He beat Julia very badly and there is speculation he also sexually assaulted her. From the way Julia occasionally flinches when she is not expecting Novak to touch her, he thinks the speculation is rooted in truth.

Julia is emotionally closed off and unavailable but she enjoys Novak’s body. As they work together on the Hangman case, she finds herself more and more attracted to him until eventually his charm is too much and she succumbs to the power of true love.

The story ends in a very HFN. As it takes place, for the most part, in just about a week, that makes sense. I was happy that Julia and Novak had known each other a little bit before the book began because it put their relationship in a romantic context from the start. I’m not sure it would have been believable for them to commence such a relationship during the investigation but continuing it made sense. There is an epilogue a few weeks later which shows further relationship growth and I was confident that Julia and Novak were in it for the long haul.

The suspense plot was somewhat unexpected. The Hangman definitely wasn’t a typical serial killer. I won’t say more so as not to give the game away but things are not at all what they seem.

The Hangman was my first experience with Christina Traister’s narration. I was impressed with her range of character voices – just about everyone sounded noticeably different. I wasn’t in love with her depiction of Novak however. He sounded a little too slow and smooth I experienced something of a disconnect between what I heard and the character contained within the text.

And, speaking of slow… I found Ms. Traister’s pacing was a little off. If I had’ve had the facility to do so, I would have played the audiobook at 1.5x speed because the normal speed was too slow for me. I found myself getting impatient. I did get used to it to some degree as the story progressed but it wasn’t ideal.

I did like Ms. Traister’s characterisation of Julia and I was impressed with her delivery of emotion and tone. There were some lovely touches where she would put laughter or a sob into her speaking voice. This kind of thing always enhances a listen for me.

Ms. Traister also had the opportunity to show some of her range of accents and I thought they were very good as well. If she’d perhaps chosen a different character voice for Novak (which I realise is entirely based on my personal taste) and sped up the pace a little, I’d have rated the narration very highly. As it was, it was still above average.

While The Hangman was my first Mary Burton, I don’t think it will be my last. If AG listeners don’t mind a bit of graphic violence in their romantic suspense, this book is certainly worth a try.


Narration: B-

Book Content: B

Steam Factor: Glad I had my earbuds in

Violence Rating: Graphic

Genre: Romantic Suspense

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

The Hangman was provided to AudioGals by Brilliance Audio for a review.

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