Hanging Hill

( 9 )

Overview


“[Hayder] has in no way lost her ability to shock, thrill, entertain and occasionally torture us with her use of words. . . . A chiller to the very end. Hayder deals with Britain at its grittiest.” —Peter Millar, The Times (London)

Mo Hayder is a world-class author of gritty, gripping page-turners, winner of the Dagger in the Library from the Crime Writers’ Association for outstanding body of work. With her latest novel, she ratchets up the terror to fever pitch. Fast-paced and...

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Overview


“[Hayder] has in no way lost her ability to shock, thrill, entertain and occasionally torture us with her use of words. . . . A chiller to the very end. Hayder deals with Britain at its grittiest.” —Peter Millar, The Times (London)

Mo Hayder is a world-class author of gritty, gripping page-turners, winner of the Dagger in the Library from the Crime Writers’ Association for outstanding body of work. With her latest novel, she ratchets up the terror to fever pitch. Fast-paced and addictive, Hanging Hill centers around a pair of estranged sisters—one a cop, one a coddled wife fallen on hard times—and the gruesome homicide of a teenage beauty, which exposes the nightmares that lurk at the edges of our safe domestic lives.

One morning in picture-perfect Bath, England, a teenage girl’s body is found on the towpath of a canal. Lorne Wood—beautiful, popular, and apparently the victim of a disturbingly brutal murder. Why was she on the towpath alone late at night? Zoe Benedict—Harley-riding police detective, independent to a fault—is convinced the department head needs to look beyond the usual domestic motives to solve the case, but no one wants to hear it, especially from the department’s black sheep. Meanwhile, Zoe’s sister, Sally—recently divorced and in dire financial straits, supporting a daughter who was friends with the dead girl—has begun working as a housekeeper for a rich entrepreneur who seems less eccentric and more repugnant, and possibly dangerous. And why are his sinister associates showing up at her daughter’s school? When Zoe’s investigation turns up evidence that Lorne’s attempts to break into modeling had delivered her into the world of webcam girls and amateur porn, a crippling secret from Zoe’s past seems determined to emerge.

All roads seem to be leading to one conclusion: there’s something very wrong at the house on Hanging Hill. But will Zoe and Sally put their differences aside and fit all the pieces together before it’s too late? Hanging Hill is a masterful, terrifying book that will have readers sleeping with the lights on.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this superb stand-alone from British author Hayder (Pig Island), the brutal murder of 16-year-old Lorne Wood, found dead in a park with words written on her corpse, draws together the Benedict sisters, Zoë and Sally, who have been estranged for years, despite both living in the city of Bath. Career-driven Zoë, a detective inspector, takes issue with her team’s reliance on a forensic psychologist. Pursuing her own line of investigation, Zoë discovers that Lorne’s modeling aspirations may have led the girl away from the catwalk and into something much seedier. Complacent Sally, a divorced mother, must take on extra housecleaning jobs to keep up with the spending of her teenage daughter, who was acquainted with Lorne. Reluctantly, Sally agrees to work extra hours for a rich businessman she soon learns makes his fortune in hardcore pornography. Secrets, both past and present, bind the sisters yet threaten to ruin multiple lives. Hayder uses her trademark violence to perfect sinister effect. Agent: Jane Gregory. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

Starred Review. "...superb stand-alone...Hayder uses her trademark violence to perfect sinister effect." - Publishers Weekly
"Hanging Hill is an authentically disturbing, gripping winner." - Christopher Fowler, Financial Times
"[Hayder] has in no way lost her ability to shock, thrill, entertain, and occasionally torture us with her use of words...A chiller to the very end. Hayder deals with Britain at its grittiest." - Peter Millar, The Times (London)
"This is an enjoyable book. Hayder has dispensed with her usual set of characters from earlier novels, and come up with a believable and interesting set. The main characters are carefully drawn, and while Zoe is a strong, independent woman, with a few neuroses underneath, she is not too neurotic and the more likable for it. The story itself is a good one, and Hayder's best book so far I think and I hope that Zoe turns up in future books." - EuroCrime
"Mo Hayder has crafted a powerful and frightening thriller that grips the reader from page one to the blood-freezing shock of the final page. Utterly compelling." - Irish Independent
"The very best thing a writer can do is to thoroughly and completely immerse the reader in a strange new world. Mo Hayder does it to perfection." - Michael Connelly

Library Journal
Two estranged sisters living in Bath, England, have strong connections to the brutal rape and murder of teenager Lorne Wood. Zoë is one of the detectives investigating the case, and her tough-girl exterior hides a painful secret. Her sister Sally's daughter, Millie, was close friends with Lorne, and her family's financial woes are proving overwhelming for Sally. Add in a creepy porn star, a dash of blackmail, and some old skeletons in the closet, and you have a recipe for disaster. This rather gory thriller shows the desperate lengths people go to when pushed beyond their limits. Hayder (Gone; Skin) has created believably flawed characters and weaves their perspectives together as she carefully builds toward a dramatic and violent finish. VERDICT Best for fans of contemporary British police procedurals in the mood for a darker tone than Deborah Crombie or Elizabeth George. [See Prepub Alert, 8/8/11.]—Laurel Bliss, San Diego State Univ. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews
A middle-class cleaning lady. A porn kingpin. A detective who cuts herself. Hayder (Gone, 2010, etc.) has assembled an unusual cast for her latest crime novel. Her leads, Zoë and Sally, live in Bath in the West of England; they are sisters, long estranged. Both have self-esteem issues. Big sister Zoë, feeling unloved as a kid, took it out on Sally, once breaking her finger. A smart loner (her best friend is her Harley), Zoë became a detective; but still self-hating, she often punctures her skin. Sally is the airhead, miserably aware of her shortcomings. Dumped by her husband, she is raising their teenage daughter on her own and cleaning houses to make ends meet. The novel begins with the dead body of Lorne, a pretty, popular 16-year-old, found beside a towpath, raped and murdered. Zoë is assigned to the case, along with Ben, who she's been dating. After some fieldwork, attention shifts to the owner of a mansion Sally cleans, David Goldrab. He oversees a porn empire and has some connection to a top-ranking but corrupt civil servant; both men were involved in human trafficking in Kosovo. Goldrab is an entertaining, foul-mouthed villain, and some of the air goes out of the novel when he meets, all too soon, a violent end. His connection to Lorne is nonexistent, but her murder investigation gets back-burner treatment as Zoë focuses on Goldrab's disappearance. There will be a second rape and a lightly sketched dismemberment, tame by Hayder standards. What's disconcerting is that Zoë acts more like a PI than one link in a chain of command with bosses, even telling Sally, "I'm not going to the police." Yes, that's sister Sally, for by now the two have reconciled, and the spectacle of these sisters gaining strength and self-respect has become as important as the chills and thrills. The psychobabble and uncertain focus make this one of Hayder's less-impressive works.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Nobody concludes a novel quite the way Mo Hayder does: with a revelation that leaves the reader staring at the page, poleaxed, willing more words to appear or flicking back to see just how she did it. Hayder's astonishing 2007 horror novel Pig Island, for example, ended with the stunned narrator, framed for murder, watching his nemesis depart and "something coiled and dark, like smoke or a spirit, lifting itself out of the car and hovering near the roof?" Now, on the final page of Hanging Hill, a mother lovingly watches her young daughter and a friend drive off to the Glastonbury Festival. "The van turned left. Not right, the way she would have gone?. Leave them alone, she thought?. You just can't go on worrying about your children for ever." Worrying: a quaint, domestic impulse; utterly redundant in the terrifying world that Hayder creates.

Here, as always, a Hayder plot that seems straightforward is masterfully skewed. In Bath, England, Lorne Wood, a privileged teenage beauty, is found horribly murdered beside a canal. Detective Inspector Zoe Benedict is led, by instinct as much as evidence, to suspect a connection to the sex trade and Internet pornography, a realm that Hayder evokes in all its dankness. "[M]ost of the time they're doing it because it's easier than standing behind a till at Top Shop for eight hours a day," one avuncular pornographer tells Zoe of his "models." Less benign are fetishistic practices "all about humiliating the woman." As one jaded dame explains, this is what sells "by the shedload?. Makes you wonder about human nature, don't it?"

Zoe doesn't wonder anymore. She has seen too much. And she has secrets of her own. But that is another story, one of a handful that Hayder expertly steers on parallel tracks as she shunts the murder investigation forward, then makes it stall or veer, all the while heightening our sense of dread. While Zoe courts danger by revisiting her past and pursuing Lorne's likely killer, Zoe's estranged sister, Sally, becomes the housekeeper for a nouveau-squire who exudes criminality and violence. Divorced, somewhat clueless, and mother to teenage Millie, Sally has little choice. She does, however, have a shady lover who reveals that Sally's employer is involved with the Ministry of Defence, the UN mission in Kosovo, and sex trafficking.

These are filaments that flicker at the periphery of our anxious vision while Zoe and Sally demand our attention. Especially Zoe, who, like many female Hayder protagonists, is both wounded and feral. Slumped in a toilet cubicle, for example, her own blood dripping onto the floor, she resolves to "take some time off work". Sleep rough and drink Guinness out of the can." Fueled by desperation more than courage, Zoe is as startling as the cinematic action scenes that Hayder so expertly stages. Shocks intensify — a nail gun comes into play, a body is dismembered, foul sex committed — while the tidal pull of Hayder's intersecting narratives churns up tangled evidence that could incriminate Sally's vile employer, a local drug dealer, or a lovesick teenager. Toward the end, the sisters traverse moonlit farmland — "Two lonely figures casting long blue shadows-feet shushing the dead corn" — to confront Lorne's killer and the final horror. Which is not, of course, the end at all.

Anna Mundow, a longtime contributor to The Irish Times and The Boston Globe, has written for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among other publications.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802120854
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/16/2013
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 290,411
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author


Mo Hayder has worked as a filmmaker, Tokyo nightclub hostess, and English language teacher. She is the winner of the Edgar® Award for Best Novel for Gone and the 2011 Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library award for outstanding body of work. She is also the author of Birdman, The Treatment, The Devil of Nanking, Pig Island, Ritual, and Skin. She lives in England.
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Read an Excerpt

Lorne’s room – with a poster of the Sugababes Blu-tacked on the door – was opposite the top of the stairs, next to the family bathroom. Zoë pushed opened the door, went inside and stood for a while, taking in the room.

She pulled a pair of gloves out of her pocket, put them on and opened a drawer. Underwear, in a bundle, perhaps from Lorne’s own untidiness or perhaps because the police team had been untidy – knickers to one side, bras to the other. Another drawer had school socks and tights, another hair accessories, hundreds of them bursting out. She went to a small multicoloured chest of drawers and peered into the top drawer. More underwear. A stack of red gymkhana rosettes. Perhaps Lorne hadn’t been allowed to throw them away so she’d done the next best thing and kept them well out of sight.

Out of sight . . .

She straightened and scanned the room. When Lorne had gone missing the OIC had come in here with a Support Group team looking for clues to her disappearance. Zoë had read through his notes and there hadn’t been anything much. But a girl like Lorne? Tension between her and her mother? There had to be something the OIC had missed. She sat on the bed, her hands resting on her lap, and concentrated on summoning up the feeling she’d had earlier. The sudden, shuddering connection to her own teenage self. If this had been her room, where would she have hidden things?

Her eyes trailed to Lorne’s bedside table, which was piled with magazines. She pushed herself off the bed, lay down on the floor, and reached a hand up under the table. She found just the smooth wood of the base. She got up, moved to the desk and did the same. Nothing. She went to the wardrobe. This time when she pushed her fingers underneath she found, taped to the base, a solid, block-shaped object encased in a plastic bag.

She peeled away the tape, removed the package and sat on the bed with it on her lap. Inside the plastic bag she found a small book, complete with a lock in the shape of a heart, a key in it. On the front of it were scrawled the words: ‘Mum, if you’ve found this then I can’t stop you reading it. But don’t forget that you will have betrayed my trust.’ Zoë smiled for the little human part of Lorne that had just peeped out. More human than Pippa downstairs, still fretting that her daughter wasn’t remotely interested in horses.

Zoë opened the book, and leafed through the pages. Most of the earlier dates had no entry, but for the last few weeks it seemed Lorne had become an inveterate scribbler. Every page was crammed to the margins with notes in a tiny, barely legible scrawl.

Most of the stuff was predictable teenage angst. Every day Lorne had recorded her weight and the number of calories she’d eaten, then a long, sometimes desperate commentary on how her hair looked awful, how fat she was getting. Zoë had read surveys that said at least seventy per cent of teenage girls were always on a diet.

More than once the initials ‘RH’ came up.

April fourteenth. Saw RH. He’s mega with the fat-tie thing. Christina says he likes me. I don’t know. Wore my Hard Candy blue eyeshadow. Totally lush!

RH was talking to that girl in the sixth form that’s supposed to have a flat in New York. Quite pretty with blonde hair but she’s got really fat calves. She shouldn’t wear leggings. Yuk.

Zeb Juice are going to see me!!! Can’t believe it. That’s given me a boost I can’t believe. I’m going to call some of the others too. I’m going to wear my pink heels and blue jeans. Shopping list, get Noodlehead Curl Boost, St Tropez Bronzing Mist – Marie Claire says it’s legend. £30. But, doh, brain freeze about where I’m going to get that money from. If I walk home every day and save all my bus fares and all my tuck money I still won’t have enough . . .

After that the pages hadn’t been written on. Instead they’d been filled with flowers and hearts and sketches of a girl – Lorne herself, presumably – dressed in bikinis and high-heeled boots. Zoë flicked through the remaining pages. There was nothing else of any interest. She closed the diary, and as she did, she noticed a small pocket on the back. When she inserted her nail she found a tiny object in there. An eight-milligram camera chip.

She sorted around on the desk until she found the camera it belonged to, plugged in the chip and began clicking through the photos. Lorne was pictured here, right in this bedroom. From the awkward position it looked as though she’d taken them herself using an automatic timer. In the first three she was dressed in a bikini – standing full length. But it was the fourth and subsequent shots that made Zoë sit down on the bed, dismayed. Lorne appeared dressed in garters, stockings and a corset, poised coquettishly on the floor, legs crossed. In the last two she had taken the corset off and was looking provocatively into the camera, her tongue held lightly at her glossed lips.

Zoë clicked through them twice, a huge wave of sadness coming over her. Why would a nice middle-class girl like Lorne do something like that? Lots of reasons, of course – maybe it was nothing more sinister than an impressionable schoolgirl trying to ease herself into her own sexuality. Or maybe to impress a boyfriend. But it could also be nastier than that. An old ghost came to Zoë then, going pitter-patter around the corners of her mind – thinking that it could be because Lorne had learned to dislike herself early. Maybe when she realized her brother was the star in their mother’s eyes she’d begun struggling to find a way to escape. Zoë knew what that felt like. Maybe that was what these photos were about.

She took the card out of the camera and held it in the palm of her hand, trying to decide if the photos were important – the portal to a whole separate side of Lorne that no one was mentioning. Whether they were connected to her modelling dream and just how desperate she had been to make that dream come true. No, she told herself, probably lots of teenage girls had photos of themselves like this, hidden somewhere from Mum and Dad. It would be better just to leave them in the diary, taped out of sight, never to be seen again. Or destroy the chip.

Or treat it as an investigative lead.

She raised her eyes to the window, saw the frondy leaves of a silver birch moving gently against the blue sky. Some time passed. Thirty seconds. A minute. Then she got to her feet and shoved the card into her back jeans pocket. ‘Sorry, Lorne,’ she murmured. ‘But I’m not sure. Not yet.’

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 13, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Another absolutely captivating story from a superb writer. Book

    Another absolutely captivating story from a superb writer. Book after book from this lady is amazingly intense and so well written. It just never stops - the way the stories grab your attention and hold you from beginning to end. Never a disappointment. Never a let-up in intensity from one book to the next. It is a joy to read this lady's writing - she does it so damned well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    No one does it like Mo

    Only John Connelly comes close to delivering the amazing combination of humanity, horror, and the struggle between what we can and can't control. Lucky for us, Mo has done it again. This book is worth every sentence.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2014

    Great book, but obnoxious ending!

    Excellent book, could not put this down. Disappointed at the ending.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2013

    Good

    While I think I preferred ``Gone'' to this one, I still enjoyed it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2013

    Excellent

    Have to read straight through to the last sentance

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  • Posted May 31, 2013

    Great book!

    Great book!

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  • Posted October 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    highly recommended!

    I just discovered Mo Hayder's books this past summer. Have already read all of them. Hanging Hill is another full of twists and turns and more importantly a can't put it down book.

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  • Posted February 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Sister Act

    The author is known for writing thrillers, sometimes with horrific plots and graphic details. This novel pales by comparison, with merely an offstage rape scene to occasion a police procedural of somewhat questionable means, and a side story about two sisters who have had virtually no contact for 20 years but are in a sense joined at the hip by the rape victim, and then that thread develops into an evolving family relationship.

    The story is more about the various characters—the two sisters, their lovers, their own background and history—and how each is affected, rather than the crime and ensuing investigation which seems to be an afterthought to contribute to the main plotline.

    Written with verve, the novel seems to drag along except for some more “exciting” portions. Much of the descriptions of one sister’s divorce and subsequent life seem labored, and the ending was to this reader quite unsatisfactory. In fact the title of the book might be a fit description for its conclusion: It seems to just hang without any wrapping up. That notwithstanding, the novel still bears reading, and is recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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