As much as I love mystery stories, I try to limit the number that I review. I avoid reviews of mysteries mostly because each book is often part of a series, and so I am reluctant to review only one of the books. I’m making an exception with Hangman’s Game primarily because it is a debut novel, though the fact that it is called A Nick Gallow Mystery leads me to assume that the author, Bill Syken, intends to make it a series.
I hope so.
Nick Gallow is a punter for the fictitious NFL team the Philadelphia Sentinels. He is a somewhat disgruntled punter. He was originally a college quarterback but was injured in a way that precluded him from continuing as a QB. At the urging and with the assistance of his football coach father, he reinvents himself as a punter, a role he has played for five years with the Sentinels.
One night, following dinner with his agent and the brand new and highly-paid Sentinels rookie, a drive-by shooting results in the rookie being killed and the agent being seriously injured. Gallow is the only witness, and he didn’t see a lot. All fingers are pointed at a self-absorbed and arrogant Sentinels linebacker as the killer, but Gallow doesn’t think so, and sets out to find out.
The author is a long-time sportswriter and editor with Sports Illustrated, and so his descriptions of the BUSINESS of football are believable. As an avid football fan, I enjoyed getting a pretty honest picture of what it’s like to be a punter – basically the low man on the totem pole that consists of plenty of prima donnas.
Reviewers have said that the reader doesn’t need to be a football fan to enjoy the book, but I’m not certain I entirely agree with this assessment. It is a very good mystery, but part of what I enjoyed about the book was the element surrounding professional football.
With that caveat, I recommend the novel, and look forward to the next Nick Gallow mystery.