Sunday, November 25, 2012

Jack Hanger by James Fouché

Jack Hanger tells the story of six days in the life of Dave Matters set against the backdrop of the 2010 World Cup Soccer tournament in South Africa.

Dave is ex-muscle for a gangster, an ex-con, and former undercover operative for the police, all by the age of 27. During a high speed chase through Cape Town's busiest streets after a drug dealer who might lead him the elusive drug lord known as Joe Taxi, Dave crashes and suffers a serious head injury. He was never "right" after the accident and is now content to clerk in a video rental store.

When his little brother Joshua gets in over his head with the mob and murdered, Dave is compelled to take them down. It isn't just revenge, Dave says but "It's about dirt that needs to surface." His police detective friend Marsh won't sanction him going undercover again but is resigned that Dave won't let it drop and hopes that he doesn't do anything too stupid and will call him if he does.

Jack Hanger is a basic "one man seeking revenge against a criminal organization" story that we've read before but don't think that puts it into the tired cliche school of crime fiction. It is a solid story, compact, with a short time frame that pushes the story along, and a main character different from any I've encountered before. The Cape Town setting adds an interesting atmosphere to the action.

The main strength of the story, for me, is the character of Dave Matters. He has a form of obsessive compulsive disorder that compels him to keep both hands busy, often on different tasks, and his mind thinking of two or three things at the same time. The accident also left him not always able to link emotions, actions, thoughts, and senses. "He can't connect all the dots properly, so...he just doesn't connect them at all." He can be a teddy bear or a wrecking machine without comprehending what he is feeling or why. Fouché integrates Dave's neurological condition into the action and it adds layers of complexity to an otherwise straight forward story of a man seeking his brother's killers. He is a man who wants to find meaning in life but finds life confusing. I found Dave someone I'd like to know, likable and scary at the same time and this makes the relationship between Dave and the police detective Marsh more believable. If I can believe in Dave then so can Marsh.

This is the author's first book. He does have some odd word choices and phrasing that initially made me pause but I found a rhythm to the flow of words and decided that I was experiencing the world as Dave might.

Fouché is currently working on a white collar crime story.

Jack Hanger is available in paperback from Amazon

A Jack Hanger is also known as a butcher bird and is noted for hanging its food on barbed wire or  twigs and thorns.