Desmond “Dez” Moore is a man out of time. Sentenced to hang for murder, he decides to write a final letter to his estranged sister. It seems the sort of thing a man should do before he dies. But instead of reaching his sister, Dez’s letter comes to Carl Reis, a self made man who has dragged himself up from the gutter. Carl finds himself intrigued by Dez and his situation and decides to see what might be done to help him.
Dez finds hope in a note from a stranger and when Carl does the impossible, Dez finds himself desperate to meet the man who saved him from the rope. Carl is used to taking risks, but risking his heart may be too much to ask.
Well. The Hanged Man’s Hero wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t great either. In fact, it wasn’t much of anything. It has a great premise — a stranger saves a man from certain death. But from this, neither a plot nor any real characterization materialize. This novella is written is Devon’s characteristic smooth and inviting style and it’s one of the reasons I often enjoy this author’s work. But normally, Devon can be counted to give a more substantial plot than what we find in The Hanged Man’s Hero. Beyond what we’re given in the blurb, there isn’t much development. There is no real rising tension or suspense. It’s evident from the start that Dez will be saved, that Carl will do the saving, and that everything will work out fine. I realize most of us read for a happily ever after, but at least a little bit of dramatic tension is nice. And there is none of that here.
The real loss in the Hanged Man’s Hero is its characters. Both had interesting set ups and the potential to be a great deal more than how they ended up. Carl was a beggar child who now manages an empire of wealth. His fascination with Dez is likely the product of a tender heart, but we’re never really sure. There isn’t any real depth to Carl and it makes his actions difficult to fully understand. His right hand woman, Crimson, is wonderfully intriguing, but again she is never given the development she deserves. She could easily have stolen the show entirely had she been anything more than a sketch. Dez, like Carl, feels like an empty vessel. His almost immediate obsession with Carl is somewhat understandable given the hopelessness of his situation, but beyond this, his character suffers from the same lack of depth as all the rest. Still he is honest about the fact he has squandered his life in more ways than one and this self-acceptance and reflection makes him a bit more relatable than any one else in the book.
The Hanged Man’s Hero isn’t a terrible read, but it never develops much of a soul. It has a loose plot and characters that fail to jump from the page. It had a lot of potential, but never capitalized on it. I’d have to give this one a pass.