Hanging Hill

Hanging Hill

4.5 9
by Mo Hayder

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“[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

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“[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

Praise for Hanging Hill

“Bad people, but great writing . . . Hayder, whose new novel Hanging Hill continues her astonishing string of brilliant, hypnotically readable mysteries, is part of a golden era of literary crime novels. . . . Hanging Hill features an ending so shocking it may reverberate through you long after you've finished the book. . . . Yes, the ending is a surprise—but it's the implication of that ending, spiraling off in horrific directions, that rocks you back in your seat.”—Julia Keller, Chicago Tribune

“Readers would be making a mistake if they overlooked the masterful British crime writer Mo Hayder’s new novel Hanging Hill. . . . Hayder . . . bring[s] this superbly plotted tale to an end more alarming than anything that comes before.”—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

“Mo Hayder is emerging as one of the best crime writers in Britain. She consistently delivers original plots, with solid characters and fascinating, eccentric premises. Hanging Hill is . . . classic Hayder.”—Margaret Cannon, The Globe & Mail

“[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)

“A suspenseful, fast-paced thriller. . . . Mo Hayder's tightly plotted Hanging Hill keeps the suspense taut, and the characters are realistic and multifaceted. . . . Hanging Hill is finely put together and entirely satisfying—at least until the terrifying ending, which uproots the safe feeling of resolution into which the reader was lulled.”—Julia Jenkins, Shelf Awareness (online)

Hanging Hill is an authentically disturbing, gripping winner.”—Christopher Fowler, Financial Times

“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. . . . Here, as always, a Hayder plot that seems straightforward is masterfully skewed.”—Anna Mundow, Barnes & Noble Review (online)

“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

“In this superb stand-alone from British author Hayder, 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. . . . Secrets, both past and present, bid the sisters yet threaten to ruin multiple lives. Hayder uses her trademark violence to perfect sinister effect.”— Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

“Hayder’s latest roller-coaster ride into the heart of darkness. . . . The fascinating Zoe would make a fine series lead. Hayder’s acclaim in the genre . . . stands only to grow in the wake of her latest triumph.”—Elliott Swanson, Booklist (starred review)

“This Brit rising star pens character-driven anti-thrillers, where tension is subtly ratcheted into a lingering pall of menace. . . . To call the ending a cliffhanger is to denigrate the cliff. Prepare to be pushed off—and pole-axed. Top-notch.”—John Sullivan, Winnipeg Free Press

“Hayder will keep you up at night.”— Library Journal

“This book isn’t for the faint of heart. It is, however, a hell of an exciting read for those who enjoy shocker-thrillers. . . . A remarkable accomplishment.”—Lawrence Kane, ForeWord Magazine

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.

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Product Details

Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.60(d)

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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