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The Hanged Man’s Song, by John Sandford. Published 2003

HERB JOHNSON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
One of the good things about this book is the lack of Mystery Novel Clichés. Are you familiar with the clichés that infest mystery novels? There are four common ones. They are all stupid.
Take for example the “hair still wet from the shower “cliché. Somebody walks around, often out of doors, with wet hair. Who does this? Most people have towels. Many have hair dryers. Nobody walks around dripping water on their clean clothes. But some writer 50 years ago thought it was a nice touch and all the mystery novelists decided to latch onto it.
Much more pervasive and more irritating is the “gunshot or car backfire.” There is a loud sound and subsequent confusion as to the source. It had to be a gunshot, because no motor vehicle has backfired since the late 1940s. Cars today are controlled by computers and one of the instructions in there is “Don’t backfire.”
The last backfire was when Elmer Thompson used his 1927 Chev truck with the grain box on the back to take a load of coal to Henry Boetcher’s house. That was 1946. Nothing since. Dead quiet.
Then there are the people who burn their tongues on the hot coffee. People don’t really do this, do they? Don’t most people realize that coffee is often hot and a certain amount of caution is in order? And even if they do burn their tongues, how does that add to moving the plot along?
Tire irons might be the most popular of the stupid clichés, and maybe the mystery writers deserve a break on this one, since none of them were born when people actually used tire irons. In the novels, the hero is in a bad spot and his only option is to go into the trunk of his car and arm himself with a tire iron.
Good idea, except what he’s got is actually a lug wrench. All cars have a jack and a lug wrench, the latter being used to remove the lug nuts so one can remove the flat tire. A tire iron, not in general use since Elmer Thompson and his Chev truck, is a flat piece of thin springy metal used to pry the tire from the rim so you can remove the tube and patch it. This was when tires had tubes and people fixed their own stuff.
So Sandford’s book about the hanged man is almost completely cliché-free. It is a Kidd novel, meaning Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers are not in it. Kidd is the hero and he is a computer person. If you hate computer lingo, stay away from this one. Otherwise, it’s pretty good.
Almost forgot. There’s also the car engine that makes ticking noises while it cools and the TV set that bathes the room in a blue light.

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