The Hanged Man's Song (Kidd Series #4)

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John Sandford author of the phenomenal Prey novels returns with The Hanged Man's Song.

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The Hanged Man's Song (Kidd Series #4)

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John Sandford author of the phenomenal Prey novels returns with The Hanged Man's Song.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This series of techno-suspense novels featuring artist, computer wizard and professional criminal Kidd (The Fool's Run; The Empress File; The Devil's Code) and his sometime girlfriend, cat-burglar LuEllen, are far fewer in number and less well-known than Sandford's bestselling Prey books. In this entry, Bobby, Kidd's genius hacker friend ("Bobby is the deus ex machina for the hacking community, the fount of all knowledge, the keeper of secrets, the source of critical phone numbers, a guide through the darkness of IBM mainframes"), goes offline for good when he is hammered to death by an intruder. Bobby's laptop is stolen, which is bad news for Kidd as several of his more illegal transactions may be catalogued on the hard drive. Kidd needs to find the computer, break the encryption and revenge Bobby's death. The trail leads from Kidd's St. Paul, Minn., art studio to heat-stricken rural Mississippi and on to Washington, D.C., where Kidd uncovers a government conspiracy that threatens the reputations and livelihood of most of the nation's elected representatives. One of the joys of the series is learning the tricks of computer hacking and basic burglary as Kidd and LuEllen take us to Radio Shack, Target, Home Depot and an all-night supermarket to buy ordinary gear, including a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, to use in clever, illegal ways. The action is as hot and twisted as a Mississippi back road, but the indefatigable Kidd eventually straightens it all out and exacts a sort of rough justice that matches his flexible moral code. The early entries in this series have aged badly because of the advances in technology, but this latest intelligent and exciting thriller proves a worthy addition to Sandford's overall body of work. (Nov.) Forecast: Sandford's fans have shown a willingness to embrace the Kidd series in the past. The author, who will make only limited personal appearances for this book, is working on the 15th in the Prey series. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425199107
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Series: Kidd Series, #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 172,639
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author

John Sandford

John Sandford is the pseudonym of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist John Camp. He is the author of the Prey novels, the Kidd novels, the Virgil Flowers novels, The Night Crew, and Dead Watch. He lives in New Mexico.

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    1. Also Known As:
      John Roswell Camp
    2. Hometown:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 23, 1944
    2. Place of Birth:
      Cedar Rapids, Iowa
    1. Education:
      State University of Iowa, Iowa City: B.A., American History; M.A., Journalism
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

NOW THE BLACK MAN screamed No!, now the black man shouted, Get out, motherfucker, and Carp, a big-boy at thirty, felt the explosion behind his eyes.


They were in the black man's neatly kept sick-house, his infirmary. Carp snatched the green oxygen cylinder off its stand, felt the weight as he swung it overhead. The black man began to turn in his wheelchair, his dark eyes coming around through the narrow, fashionable glasses, the gun turning, the gun looking like a toy.

And now it goes to slo-mo, the sounds of the house fading-the soprano on public radio, fading; the rumble of a passing car, fading; the hoarse, angry words from the black man, fading to inaudible gibberish; and the black man turning, and the gun, all in slo-mo, the sounds fading as time slowed down....

Then lurching to fast forward:

"HAIYAH!" James Carp screamed it, gobs of spit flying, one explosive syllable, and he swung the steel cylinder as hard as he could, as though he were spiking a football.

The black man's skull shattered and the black man shouted a death-shout, a HUH! that came at once with the WHACK! of the cylinder smashing bone.

The black man spun out of his wheelchair, blood flying in a crimson spray. A .25-caliber automatic pistol skittered out of his fingers and across the red-and-blue oriental carpet into a corner; the wheelchair crashed into a plaster wall, sounding as though somebody had dropped an armful of pipes.

Time slowed again. The quiet sounds came back: the soprano, the cars, an airplane, a bird, and the black man: almost subliminally, the air squeezed out of his dying lungs and across his vocal cords, producing not a moan, but a drawn-out vowel oooohhhh...

Blood began to seep from the black man's close-cut hair into the carpet. He was a pile of bones wrapped in a blue shirt.

CARP stood over him, sweating, shirt stuck to his broad back, breathing heavily, angry adrenaline burning in his blood, listening, hearing nothing but the rain ticking on the tin roof and the soprano in the unintelligible Italian opera; smelling the must and the old wood of the house tainted by the coppery odor of blood. He was pretty sure he knew what he'd done but he said, "Get up. C'mon, get up."

The black man didn't move and Carp pushed the skinny body with a foot, and the body, already insubstantial, shoulders and legs skeletal, small skull like a croquet ball, flopped with the slackness of death. "Fuck you," Carp said. He tossed the oxygen cylinder on a couch, where it bounced silently on the soft cushions.

A car turned the corner. Carp jerked, stepped to a window, split the blinds with an index finger, and looked out at the street. The car kept going, splashing through a roadside puddle.

Breathing even harder, now. He looked around, for other eyes, but there was nobody in the house but him and the black man's body. Fear rode over the anger, and Carp's body told him to run, to get away, to put this behind him, to pretend it never happened; but his brain was saying, Take it easy, take it slow.

Carp was a big man, too heavy for his height, round-shouldered, shambling. His eyes were flat and shallow, his nose was long and fleshy, like a small banana. His two-day beard was patchy, his brown hair was lank, mop-like. Turning away from the body, he went first for the laptop.

The dead man's name was Bobby, and Bobby's laptop was fastened to a steel tray that swiveled off the wheelchair like an old-fashioned school desk. The laptop was no lightweight-it was a desktop replacement model from IBM with maximum RAM, a fat hard drive, built-in CD/DVD burner, three USB ports, a variety of memory-card slots.

A powerful laptop, but not exactly what Carp had expected. He'd expected something like...well, an old-fashioned CIA computer room, painted white with plastic floors and men in spectacles walking around in white coats with clipboards, Bobby perched in some kind of Star Wars control console. How could the most powerful hacker in the United States of America operate out of a laptop? A laptop and a wheelchair and Giorgio Armani glasses and a blue, freshly pressed oxford-cloth shirt?

The laptop wasn't the only surprise-the whole neighborhood was unexpected, a run-down, gravel-road section of Jackson, smelling of Spanish moss and red-pine bark and marsh water. He could hear croakers chipping away in the twilight when he walked up the flagstones to the front porch.

RIGHT from the start, his search seemed to have gone bad. He'd located Bobby's caregiver, and the guy wasn't exactly the sharpest knife in the dishwasher: Carp had talked his way into the man's house with an excuse that sounded unbelievably lame in his own ears, so bad that he couldn't believe that the man had been trusted with Bobby's safety. But he had been.

ANY question had been resolved when Bobby had come to the front door and Carp had asked, "Bobby?" and Bobby's eyes had gone wide and he'd started backing away.

"Get away from me. Who are you? Who...get away..."

The whole thing had devolved into a thrashing, screaming argument and Carp had bulled his way through the door, and then Bobby had sent the wheelchair across the room to a built-in bookcase, pushed aside a ceramic bowl, and Carp could see that a gun was coming up and he'd picked up the oxygen cylinder.

Didn't really mean to do it. Not yet, anyway. He'd wanted to talk for a while.

Whatever he'd intended, Bobby was dead. No going back now. He moved over to the wheelchair, turned the laptop around, found it still running. Bobby hadn't had time to do anything with it, hadn't tried. The machine was running UNIX, no big surprise there. A security-aware hacker was as likely to run Windows as the Navy was to put a screen door on a submarine.

He'd figure it out later; one thing he didn't dare do was turn it off. He checked the power meter and found the battery at 75 percent. Good for the time being. Next he went to the system monitor to look at the hard drive. Okay: 120 gigabytes, 60 percent full. The damn thing had more data in it than the average library.

The laptop was fastened to the wheelchair tray by snap clamps and he fumbled at them for a moment before the computer came loose. As he worked the clamps, he noticed the wi-fi antenna protruding from the PCMCIA slot on the side of the machine. There was something more, then.

He carried the laptop to the door and left it there, still turned on, then went through the house to the kitchen, moving quickly, thinking about the crime. Mississippi, he was sure, had the electric chair or the guillotine or maybe they burned you at the stake. Whatever it was, it was bound to be primitive. He had to take care.

He pulled a few paper towels off a low-mounted roll near the sink and used them to cover his hands, and he started opening doors and cupboards. In a bedroom, next to a narrow, ascetic bed under a crucifix, he found a short table with the laptop's recharging cord and power supply, and two more batteries in a recharging deck.

Good. He unplugged the power supply and the recharging deck and carried them out to the living room and put them on the floor next to the door.

In the second bedroom, behind the tenth or twelfth door he opened, he found a cable jack and modem with the wi-fi transceiver. He was disappointed: he'd expected a set of servers.

"Shit." He muttered the word aloud. He'd killed a man for a laptop? There had to be more.

Back in the front room, he found a stack of blank recordable disks, but none that had been used. Where were the used disks? Where? There was a bookcase and he brushed some of the books out, found nothing behind them. Hurried past all the open doors and cupboards, feeling the pressure of time on his shoulders. Where?

He looked, but he found nothing more: only the laptop, winking at him from the doorway.

Had to go, had to go.

He stuffed the paper towels in his pocket, hurried to the door, picked up the laptop, power supply, and recharging deck, pulled the door almost shut with his bare hand, realized what he'd done, took the paper towels out of his pocket, wiped the knob and gripped it with the towel, and pulled the door shut. Hesitated. Pushed the door open again, crossed to the couch, thoroughly wiped the oxygen cylinder.

All right. Outside again, he stuck the electronics under his arm beneath the raincoat, and strolled as calmly as he could to the car. The car, a nondescript Toyota Corolla, had belonged to his mother. It wouldn't get a second glance anywhere, anytime. Which was lucky, he thought, considering what had happened.

He put the laptop, still running, on the passenger's seat. The laptop would take very careful investigation. As he drove away, he thought about his exposure in Bobby's death. Not much, he thought, unless he was brutally unlucky. A neighbor trying a new camera, an idiot savant who remembered his license plate number; one chance in a million.

Less than that, even-he'd been obsessively careful in his approach to the black man; that he'd come on a rainy day was not an accident. Maybe, he thought, he'd known in his heart that Bobby would end this day as a dead man.

Maybe. As he turned the corner and left the neighborhood, a hum of satisfaction began to vibrate through him. He felt the skull crunching again, saw the body fly from the wheelchair, felt the rush....

Felt the skull crunch...and almost drove through a red light.

He pulled himself back: he had to get out of town safely. This was no time for a traffic ticket that would pin him to Jackson, at this moment, at this place.

He was careful the rest of the way out, but still...

He smiled at himself. Felt kinda good, Jimmy James.

HUH! WHACK! Rock 'n' roll.

—from The Hanged Man's Song by John Sandford, Copyright © 2003 John Sandford, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 31 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2004

    First read of Kidd Series

    Fulfilling a book report assignment, I decided to read the book: 'The Hanged Man's Song', by John Sandford. Published in 2003 by the Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated, and illustrated by Lovedog Studio, this book takes the reader on a great adventure full of suspense, murders and action. John Sandford is a Crime Novelist extraordinaire, and makes this book a 'must read'. My assignment was to read a book by a Minnesota Author, which is how I came across John's name. The book starts off with an explosive introduction, with one of the main characters, Bobby, murdered. In the next few pages, the reader is introduced to some key characters, James Carp, Kidd (no last name), and LuEllen (Kidd's side kick). The setting of this adventurous book is in the heart of St. Paul, and also includes the settings of Washington D.C., Chicago, and some small named towns along the way. With the death of Bobby, Kidd must find the murderer, and save the lives of hundreds, along with his own; and uncover a mystery that the government is hiding. For a first read of Sandford¿s, I found this book to be a joy to read, and is only the beginning of the many books of Sandford's that will come after it. The only 'lull' in the book is a few scenes in hotel rooms, but (trust me) they add up in the end to a great ending to another honorable book written by Sandford. I would recommend this book to anyone, it is a good read, not too hard, and keeps your mind thinking along the way!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2003


    I have read and enjoyed all of John Sandford's books. Everytime he writes a new one, I have to have it. When I know he is about to publish another, I'm on pins and needles!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2009

    If you love the other John Sanford's Kidd books, you will love this one too. If you're not already a Sanford fan, try the "Prey" series first. The Prey series is a bit better than the Kidd series.

    I am a long time John Sanford fan, and read everything he writes. I did enjoy this books twists, and it had a fair amount of suspense. Though I enjoy all of Sanfords books, I still prefer the "Prey" series to the Kidd series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2004

    My first Kidd read, it won't be my last!

    I have been an avid fan of Sanford's 'Prey' books but for some reason I have always been hesitant to pick up a Kidd book. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kidd does rival the brilliant and enigmatic Lucas Davenport, though in a less glamorous, more edgy way. The technical aspects of the storyline are intriguing to a techie-wannabe; and the on-again, off-again relationship with the daring yet vulnerable LuEllen is enough to keep a surreptitious romantic captivated and coming back for more. It's not always a bad thing to begin a series with the latest book, though there are obvious references to events from earlier works. Now that I have read the Hanged Man's Song, I can hardly wait to read the other Kidd novels as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2004

    Another Great Read

    I have read all of John Sandford's novels and have enjoyed them all. This one Kidd taking the spotlight. The Hanged Man ties in nicely with Fool's Run and The Empress File.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2004

    An excellent read, everything I expected!

    Mr. Kidd is the main character and a member of an elite computer ring in ¿The Hanged Mans Song¿. Mr. Kidd is a man of many faces: the computer nerd, professional criminal, artist, and sometimes a tarot card reader. After getting an interesting message, he investigates it only to find his accomplice and long time friend Bobby with his skull crushed in and his computer stolen. This is no ordinary break-in. Kidd, fearing that members of his ring and their activities will be exposed, goes to search out who was behind this crime and why they committed it. On his search, he finds out that there is information on that computer that can bring down many big-time politicians. ¿The Hanged Mans Song¿ is part of a whole series featuring the character Mr. Kidd. Sanford does an excellent job on this book. Kidd¿s adventures make¿s him seem above the law. This book shows readers the power of knowledge and information. Sanford¿s writing is creative, descriptive, and unique. The words he chooses throughout the book bring depth. This book was an incredible read, and anyone with an interest in computers or crime investigation novels should take the time to read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2004

    Not up to his usual level of excellence !

    I've read all of the PREY novels and the other KIDD books that Sanford has written. This is the first one I've been dissapointed in. There is way too much miscellaneous dialogue and too little story to capture a reader's attention. I wouldn't recommend this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2004


    Television actor and voice performer par excellence Richard Ferrone has recorded eleven of John Sandford's 'Prey' novels. One would be hard pressed to find a more articulate, compelling performer to bring these thrillers to life. With 'The Hanged Man's Song,' fans will welcome the return of Sandford's popular protagonist, Kidd. This man can do anything - he's an accomplished computer hacker, an artist and a Tarot card reader. Unlike Sandford's other hero, Minneapolis police detective Lucas Davenport who is found in the blockbuster 'Prey' series, Kidd isn't completely law abiding. Inside or outside the law he does whatever it takes to get the job done. And, this time out he has quite a task cut out for him. Bobby, the world's foremost computer hacker, has been brutally beaten to death and his laptop is missing. Big trouble for Kidd as there are secrets hidden there that he doesn't want revealed. Enlisting the comfort and support of his sometimes lover, LuEllen, Kidd sets out to track down the deadliest of villains - those who kill with a few taps on a keyboard. Sandford never disappoints, so brace yourselves for an action-packed listen.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2003

    Put Christmas Shopping on Hold

    This book, while I listened to the audio version, was an all nighter. You simply could not stop, and I tried. These are new characters for me, but I will read all of his books with them from the first book. I am that hooked on them, and on John's brilliant way of spinning a story that grabs you at the first page and will not let you go. Those authors a few and far between and it seems I have to read/listen to drivel until a new release. Ya know, I like these characters better than Davenport. More John, more. A fan and avid reader of all the mystery writers both great and small. There are gems out there just ripe for the recognition they deserve. 'Dead Guys Stuff' by Sharon Fiffer. What a wonderful author, stay with her and give her a boost. She is just as good as Evanovich, and Mott Davidson. Give her a try, you will be delighted. We expect great things from Sandford and Grisham, but they are the fat cats who know they are good and I agree, they are the best at what they do, but I'm always willing someone 'a leg up', and this lady deserves it. Thanks John, for a wonderful weekend of fun before I am crushed with anxiety; you did a magnificent job with your new book. I am singing your praises to all my friends and library. Thanks and Merry Christmas!!!! Linda

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2003

    exciting thriller

    Anyone who knows computers knows that Bobby is the Michael Jordan of hacking. No fire wall can keep him out if he chooses to enter that site. However, someone decides to keep Bobby out by smashing in his head. His friends are horrified by the violence, but also fear what the killer will do with the information found on Bobby¿s stolen laptop. <P>Kidd understands the ramifications of the missing computer that may contain files pertaining to his own illegal activities. Besides his personal safety, Kidd also feels a need to avenge the death of his friend. Bobby¿s secrets begin to surface providing a trail that takes Kidd around the country, but ultimately to DC where the political elite is in jeopardy of exposure. <P>Though the earlier Kidd entries show the speed in which technology becomes obsolete, THE HANGED MAN¿S SONG is an exciting thriller starring an intriguing lead character whose moral code is a bit different than most people. The story line is fast-paced as Kidd accompanied by his cat burgling girlfriend follows the clues. John Sandford, better known for those delicious Prey novels has written a strong tale starring a charming offbeat individual with a quest for justice, Kidd style. <P>Harriet Klausner

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    Posted December 13, 2009

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    Posted November 27, 2009

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