Book Review: The Hanged Man’s Tale by Gerald Jay

This is one for the crime fiction fans. ‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ follows the police investigation of a murder where the victim is found hanging inside a canal tunnel in Paris with a tarot card in his pocket. The book is written by Gerald Jay, the nom de plume of the late creative writing academic and author, Gerald Jay Goldberg.

The storyline will be familiar to anyone who has read or watched crime fiction; murder victim found, scapegoat accused, and police detective determined to find the real killer despite protests from his superiors. It’s the second novel featuring the protagonist Inspector Paul Mazarelle. The first, The Paris Detective, was inspired by the true story of the Montfort murders in 1999 where four Dutch tourists were killed.

The Hanged Man's Tale

What to expect

‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ opens with an assassination attempt on the French president during the Bastille Day parade, which introduces us to Mazarelle and his team, as well as a hint of police corruption. Moving quickly, the book then transports us to its title scene; a dead private investigator hanging upside-down by his ankle in a canal tunnel and the tarot card of ‘the hanged man’ in his jacket pocket.

Police HQ quickly identifies a small-time criminal from an ethnic minority and pins the murder on him. However, Mazarelle doesn’t accept this outcome and defies his superiors by investigating the case properly – to the anger of his bosses.

Along the way, Mazarelle encounters a journalist who is also on the trail and as the web of deceit around the case grows, a trip to the south of France makes him realise his own life is in danger.

The storyline moves quickly, throwing in some twists and turns along the way. Although keen readers of crime fiction who understand the genre’s style will likely guess ‘whodunnit’, there’s still plenty of action and scenery to keep you entertained as you find out how it’s delivered – especially if you’re a fan of all things French.

The true charm of ‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ lies in its bittersweet back story.

Events overtaking original plan

Goldberg had the idea for a second Mazarelle novel but before he could finish it, he suffered a stroke and was unable to communicate his ideas with clarity – until his family stepped in. Although Goldberg is attributed as the author, the book would never have come to fruition without a multigenerational support team.

‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ is the product of four writers across three generations:
– Jerry Goldberg; his wife,
– Nancy Marmer; his son Rob Goldberg;
– and his grandson James Goldberg.
The family worked together to convert Jerry Goldberg’s ideas and concepts into an orderly storyline and finally a finished manuscript – with lots of editing to ensure it reflected his tone and style. The book was finished by the end of 2019 but Goldberg died before he was able to see the book published in 2021.

The Hanged Man's Tale

This crime fiction contains it all

‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ is a tried and tested technique with a trail of bodies, false leads, and underlying defiance of authority, and has all the stereotypes of Paris and France;
– gastronomy,
– seduction,
– the Foreign Legion, and more.

Although it falls under the sub-genre of ‘noir mystery’ (as opposed to a ‘cosy mystery’), the novel’s familiar style and overt French imagery make for a cosy holiday read.

This is the kind of book to stock in a B&B in France for guests to enjoy on their stay; it’s a short, easy read and couldn’t be set anywhere else but France. ‘The Hanged Man’s Tale’ is published by Penguin Random House

Have you read this book or others by Gerald Jay: Gerald Jay Goldberg? Do you enjoy this genre? Share with us in the comments below.

About the Contributor

Bethany Keats

I'm a former journalist who currently works in media relations. Originally from Geelong, Victoria, Australia, I now live in Townsville, Queensland and I usually visit France once or twice a year.

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