THE HANGING TREE by Ellery A. Kane

THE HANGING TREE

From the "Doctors of Darkness" series, volume 2
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The second novel in the Doctors of Darkness series follows a psychologist and murderer 23 years after incidents that changed their lives forever.

On Friday, May 13, 1994, 13-year-old orphan Evie Allcott and her best (and only) friend Cassie, clutching their cherry Slurpees, accepted a ride from a stranger. Now, in 2017, Evie, a widowed 36-year-old psychologist for sex offenders, is still deeply affected by that night—even though she can’t fully recall it. She believes that Cassie was strangled by a man at “the hanging tree,” a disturbing landmark in their city of Oakland, California. In a desperate search for answers, Evie hitchhikes every other Friday, hoping for a dangerous situation to jog her memory. One night, someone does try to kill her, although it doesn’t make her remember the old crime; however, 41-year-old Butch Calder, who knew Evie in their youth, saves her. Back in 1994, Butch strangled his childhood crush after she rejected him, and he was only recently released from prison. The story alternates between the two main characters’ perspectives, jumping between 1994 and events in 2017, such as the addition of troubled Sebastian Delacourt to Evie’s therapy sessions. When another young girl is murdered at the hanging tree, detectives work to find the culprit, and Evie withholds some information from them. In the end, she grapples with a familiar question: “how do you destroy a devil without becoming one?” The story, by real-life psychologist Kane (Daddy Darkest, 2017, etc.), provides a captivating look into its characters’ complicated minds, and a psychological study of the effects of childhood distress: It’s revealed that Gwen’s wealthy father neglected her, which led to her kleptomaniac behavior, and Evie watched her mother die of a heroin overdose at the hands of a pimp, which may have led her to want to help people as an adult. The fast-paced story flows with precision, and Kane’s decision to reveal the crimes early on, before building up to the 1994 murder, generates genuine suspense. However, readers should be warned that this book deals with very sensitive subjects, including pedophilia and rape.

An excellent, though disturbing, look at a woman’s desperate search for closure.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-692-05359-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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