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The Hangman is the third book in The Forgotten Files series by the romantic suspense author Mary Burton.
As in the previous two novels, this latest installment also deal with two new main characters, which means that reading the series in order is not required for any character development continuity.
Tobias Novak is a homicide detective, who is called to an abandoned home to investigate a fire which unearthed the skeletons of a young woman forgotten in the basement for over a quarter of a century.
Among the victim’s possessions, there is also an old photo of a very young Julia Vargas and her dad. Tobias has been dating Julia for a little while, so he is quite surprised when he realizes that the murder has something to do with his new flame.
But what is the connection between Julia and the murdered girl if any?
Julia comes with a lot of baggage. She is a cop and also the daughter of a cop who back in the day was rumored of being The Hangman, a serial killer who would strangle young girls repeatedly until eventually he’d bore of the game and kill his victims.
At some point, The Hangman stopped killing. This just so happened to be around the time Julia’s dad, Jim Vargas, committed suicide. Since then Julia could never get over a feeling (compounded by quiet gossip among cops) that her dad might have been indeed the notorious serial killer.
So when this new case drops in Tobias’s lap, Julia decides that it’s high time she got to the bottom of it all, even if her worst fears would realize during the investigation.
She can’t remember who the young murdered woman is, but she will not stop until she finds out why she is in the victim’s photo and why is the victim in an abandoned home’s basement.
To muddle the waters, even more, a new body is soon found, killed in the same way The Hangman used to take care of his victims, which now poses a whole new set of questions: is this a copycat killer or the real Hangman? Because if he IS the Hangman, could it be possible that Julia’s dad was innocent all along? But then why did he commit suicide back in the day?
Working the two cases, the cold case, and the new murder, Julia and Tobias have to run against time and solve both cases before Julia becomes the killer’s next victim.
This story is a romantic suspense at its best. There is a crime to solve, two headstrong characters, albeit very opposite in the way they think and act, and a strong attraction between them.
Tobias is a calm person who thinks everything through. Julia is a hothead who jumps into danger without much thinking and has some secrets that she doesn’t want to freely share with Tobias.
And yet somehow like fire and water, the two manage to get closer and closer together in an inevitable whirlwind of passion that they can’t fight any longer.
My favorite romantic suspense books are where the romance is not overpowering. And The Hangman fits the bill exactly. There is an undeniable attraction between the two, but the criminal investigation takes center stage, leaving any hot steamy sex scenes in the background, for which I am extremely grateful. The romance enhances the story, it never detracts from it.
There is a reason why Mary Burton is one of my favorite romantic suspense novelists, and the Forgotten Files series proves to be another great addition to this wonderful author’s repertoire.