Ted Kane is worried. He’s been sleepwalking, and his somnambulant travels appear to coincide with murders by the notorious Hang Wire Killer. Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously, the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines, and the new acrobat’s frequent absences are causing tension among the performers. Out in the city there are other new arrivals – immortals searching for an ancient power – a primal evil which, if unopposed, could destroy the world!
Master of multi-genre, Adam Christopher’s fast-paced plotting and curveballs have cemented him as a popular author. His first novel for 2014, Hang Wire, does not buck this trend with a plot that pits serial killers and gods against each other against a moving backdrop of time and place. In yet another impressive achievement for the writer, this is one of two books out from him this month, with his ‘space opera’ The Burning Dark also hitting shelves the same day.
Hang Wire opens with an evocative prologue detailing one of the main characters experiences in the 19th century land rush, and another combating ancient evil during the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco both setting the scene nicely. Mix in a city in fear with a serial killer on the loose, and the mystery surrounding blogger Ted – caught at the center of an exploding fortune cookie and Hang Wire has a lot of promise going for it.
Unfortunately, the myriad of characters in Hang Wire makes it difficult to empathise or even care about them. The rapid pace of the book and short chapters make it hard to get to grips with them. This said, everyone seems to like Bob, the shirtless hobo of San Francisco’s beaches, who on paper should be one of the more irritating characters with his unique drawl. Yet he is oddly compelling, and a calming presence amongst the dizzying cast.
Another problem comes with the introduction of the myriad of gods featured. There is little explanation of why they inhabit San Francisco specifically, or even if any others are in the vicinity.
It is Christopher’s writing that keeps you gripped. But his writing isn’t enough. I read it rather slowly and still had to keep flicking backwards and forwards in other to keep up with who was who. Ordinarily this might not have been a problem, but with the strands of plot dangling and the point of view changing view so often, for once trying to keep up was a chore.
The climax doesn’t feel as satisfying as it might thanks to an info dump of plot. Ultimately, your enjoyment of Hang Wire will likely revolve around how quickly you can adapt to the multiple points of view and momentum of the story.
However, there is still much to like. Christopher skilfully weaves real-life history into his narrative. A gruesome murder by the Hang Wire killer told through the point of view of the victim clearly demonstrates Christopher’s talent for the macabre.
It’s just a shame that the various strands don’t tie together more neatly and satisfactorily. His earlier works have been more successful with their fusing of plot. But this probably down to the strong central cores they share – whether it is the pocket universe in the Empire State series, or the flawed superheroes in Seven Wonders. Here, it feels like Hang Wire can’t decide whether it’s a thriller, a crime story or a paranormal tale.
This leads to another disappointment. The frequent interludes following one characters travels through time are pretty well defined. Each period feels distinct, but it is so repetitive both in plot and style. It’s jarring and a shame as Christopher can sure as hell generate good ideas.
Sometimes though, perhaps less is more. It has left me itching to read his second novel this year, The Burning Dark, to see if it is as cluttered, or whether the space opera style suits him better. As it is, Hang Wire is an entertaining, but flawed, read.
The Fiction Stroker gives Hang Wire three strokes out of five: