It’s unusual for me to read a mid-series title without having read the rest but here is Book 4 of the Zodiac Mystery series by Joffe author, Linda Mather, a long running but intermittent series which began with “Forecast Murder” back in 1994.
Central character here is Jo Hughes, an astrologist currently running a workshop at Alcott College in the Cotswolds. She is with the recently CEO of the college, Aoife, when they discover Seb, the financial director, hanging in the woods. Is it suicide? Jo becomes obsessed with finding out when another staff member disappears at the same time.
I think this setting marks a shift in the series. It seems from the support systems Jo uses that prior to this she has been assisting a Private Detective, David Macy, in Coventry. He has moved into debt collection and the new working environment for Jo places her in the middle of the situation and provides a fairly open-ended set-up for future novels.
It doesn’t match the luridness of the title and it is not consistently gripping. The hanging and disappearance occur early on before these characters are established so it is quite easy not to care that much about them. The astrological aspect is a good idea, but apart from it giving the reason to be at the college it seems a little tacked on and a tad unconvincing. But there’s probably not that many readers who come in at Book 4, so they will know what to expect from the author and most will be satisfied with this title. Plot-wise there are not many twists but it read well and although I didn’t totally feel drawn in by Jo’s experiences at Alcott College fans of this series would be happy with its resumption. If you wish to get up to speed on this series before the fifth book arrives the publishers have put together the first three in a set at a bargain price (currently £1.99 on Amazon).
The Hanged Man was published in 2021 by Joffe.