Thursday, October 11, 2007

What Mrs. N's Been Reading - How the Hangman Lost His Heart

I often wished that my family tree was a bit more colorful. My relatives are nice folks, but basically boring. As a teenager, I had a backpacking buddy whose great-grandfather was a trapeze artist in the Viennese circus. I always kind of envied her. I was thinking about her as I was reading K.M. Grant's How the Hangman Lost His Heart. If you are offended by gallows humor, I'd suggest you steer clear of this one. If, on the other hand, you are, like me, a big fan of Far Side style humor, you'll love this one. It was inspired by the author's actual family history. An ancestor of hers had the distinction of being the last person in Britain to be executed by being hung, drawn and quartered. Unfortunately, his head was stolen. It was eventually returned to the family, but for many years, they could not get permission to open his tomb to put his head back with his body, so it was passed around in a hatbox, until after WWII. The book begins at Uncle Frank's execution. After the execution, his head is mounted on a pike on Temple Bar. His niece, Alice, decides that she is going to get Uncle Frank's head back, no matter what it takes, and ends up getting help from the executioner, of all people. I really enjoyed this one. The rest of the book follows Alice and Dan, the executioner, as they try to stay clear of the authorities while they get, lose, regain, relose, etc., the head. It's a nice light read, with a plenty of twisted humor, that gives you a different take on an historic period. Check it out!

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