Book Review : S.W Lauden - Hang Time (2018)
California has a proud tradition of riveting mystery novels. And why wouldn't it? It's one of the most bizarre places on Earth, filled with people in the process of renouncing their dreams while you're trying to live yours. But it makes for great novels, the latest being S.W Lauden's Greg Salem mysteries, which I have been championing for a couple years now. Well, ol' Greg's adventure are coming to an end with the release of Hang Time, the closing volume of the trilogy.
While I thought Greg Salem didn't go out with the bang he deserved, Hang Time more than tied up the loose ends and gave this memorable character a well-deserved sendoff.
In Hang Time, Greg's old band Bad Citizens Corporation is coming back together for a tour and possibly the recording of a new album. Seems like a non-issue on paper, right? It become more complicated when kids start hanging themselves at Greg's show, each wearing a sign around their necks saying: "I am Tim". Tim being Greg's brother and co-founder of Bad Citizens Corporations, who happens to have hanged himself thirty something years ago. What the fuck is going on? Who is trying to undermine the glorious return of one of the most influential punk rock band that's ever lived? Well, detective Salem is on the case and this time...
I thought Hang Time was a good novel and a competent sendoff for Greg Salem, but it didn't wow me like its two predecessors. And it's easy to understand why: it's the most ambitious novel in the series and it comes out a little bit short on what it aimed for. For example, it's the most intimate novel in the trilogy by far. It confronts Greg Salem to his inner demons and unresolved issues regarding the suicide of his brother, which is a great premise, right? But it gets kind of lost in the sprawling intrigue and it's a little weird to see support characters witnessing what Greg goes through and not really caring about him. His own wife prefers to pack up and leave rather than sit down and discuss this guys-hanging-themselves-like-Tim thing.
So, that was weird. Exploring Greg's inner self was a great idea, but it would've required a more intimate, perhaps claustrophobic setting. Tonal issues torpedo a lot of the mystery here, but there's still a lot to like about Hang Time. The sprawling setting, while being counterintuitive, is gorgeous and well-implemented. The idea of having police forces from different locales that react differently to Greg and Bad Citizens Corporation was absolutely brilliant and I would've loved to have more of it. The idea of pitting police forces against one another, competing to resolve the same crime is borderline genius. It's only superficially exploited here, but it's more than enough to keep you going.
I liked Hang Time, but I didn't love it like Bad Citizens Corporation and Grizzly Season. It's not a bad mystery by any means, but it goes a little bit in every direction and never commits to one. Props to S.W Lauden for pushing the envelope, trying new things and strictly refusing the rehash the formula, but he stretched himself a little thin on that one. If you read the first two volumes in the series, you're going to need to read this one like one would need air, so my opinion ultimately doesn't matter. I was slightly underwhelmed by Hang Time, but it is ultimately a satisfying sendoff and I excited to see what S.W Lauden does next.