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Literature / Naming The Hangman

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The second novel in the Amber Eckart Mysteries series by Eric Plume, Naming The Hangman was released in July of 2014.

Private Investigator Amber Eckart is hired by attorney Kevin Andersen to investigate the death of a young woman on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. The police closed the case as a suicide after only a few hours, and the investigating officer has since been stonewalling the victim's widow's attempts to have it re-opened. Amber leaves the office in the care of her two employees, Julian Wu and Izzy Alphabet and goes to Whidbey to investigate. While there, she stays with an old friend and mentor, Marian "Mattie" Fawkes, one of her professors from college and a respected retired journalist.


Naming The Hangman contains examples of these tropes:

  • Action Prologue: While the events in the first chapter have nothing to do with the rest of the story, they foreshadow some of what Amber and company end up dealing with.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The Freak Patrol MC.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Discussed between Amber and Izzy, then Lampshaded by Amber when she first meets Xander Harkness.
  • Badass Biker: All the members of the Freak Patrol would say that they count. They might or might not; we don't really see enough of any of them to know. Irish Bob Brodie most certainly does.
  • Berserk Button: Amber does not like hearing about how she failed to become a cop.
  • Byronic Hero: Xander Harkness.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Amber and Rachelle engage in this for three straight chapters.
  • Character Development:
    • Kevin Andersen evolves into something more complex than the Amoral Attorney he was in Margin Play.
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    • Julian leaves behind some of his spaciness and goofball behavior, becoming a competent if idealistic investigator.
    • Xander Harkness starts the story as a Byronic Hero and ends up heading a different direction.
    • Amber herself becomes more concerned with presenting a professional appearance.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • A literal example with Mattie's M-14.
    • Amber's loose underwire.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: Once again Amber falls of the wagon with her smoking habit when the situation grows stressful.
  • *Click* Hello: Amber and Shelle pull one off on two of the bikers, followed shortly by a Tap on the Head.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Amber. She'll do whatever is necessary, "fair fight" be-damned.
  • Cool Guns:
    • Mattie's M-14. Her late husband bought it years previously and she still has all the paperwork to legally have it.
    • The Fianchi SPAS-12 Rachelle gets hold of.
    • Billy Calloway's entire collection, in fact. The fact that he used a rather exotic, unusual and extremely expensive large-caliber automatic rifle rather than a more mundane one at one point helps the investigation along.
  • Deadpan Snarker: While all the characters have their moments Amber is the most consistent about it...especially in situations where it isn't such a good idea.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Amber calls a sit-down with Irish Bob. This surprises him greatly (see Worthy Opponent).
  • Empty Cop Threat: Strandell tries this on Amber. Having been around cops all her life, she calls his bluff. She knows that a charge of "obstructing an investigation" won't stick because the investigation was already closed — there's nothing to obstruct.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": On a meta-level; Amber has a habit of identifying other characters by an attribute when she doesn't know their names (Beard, Arsonist, Beefy, Smooth). No one else calls them this.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Events cause Amber and Rachelle to develop a mutual case of friendship and respect.
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Evil:
    • The Good: (Primary characters) Amber, Stone, Mattie, Shelle, (Secondary characters) Izzy, Julian, Kevin Andersen, Dr. Sharistani.
    • The Bad: Xander, Irish Bob.
    • The Evil: The drug runners.
  • Groin Attack: Amber. This time she bites.
  • Gun Nut: Billy Calloway. His propensity for acquiring expensive military-grade guns helps lead Izzy to Internet postings that link him to the bikers.
  • Heel–Face Turn: One of the drug gang turns State's witness.
    Stone: In twenty-two years as a police officer I've never seen anyone flip so hard.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Amber, after speaking to Lanie's mother.
  • Improvised Weapon: Over the course of the story, a six-inch long steel rod, a pipe wrench, an axe handle, a beer bottle, teeth, and a Molotov Cocktail.
  • Indy Ploy: When she isn't bouncing one group off another for her benefit, Amber is flying largely by the seat of her pants.
  • Instant Web Hit: Played for Drama.
  • Meet Cute: Stone met his wife, Genevieve, when he gave her a ticket for indecent exposure (she was sunbathing nude in a park) and she tried to flirt her way out of it.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Billy Calloway.
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: Played with. While Rachelle does get to face off with Billy Calloway, she does not introduce herself by name but rather says "you know who I am". He does, indeed, know who she is.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Mattie. Full stop. She's "plump, gray, and wrinkled and didn't give a damn about it", smells of fresh-baked bread and lavender, raises chickens and makes moonshine and lives in a country cabin that's basically a fortress. Oh, and then there's the matter of her husband's collection. She also doesn't scare worth a darn and if anyone steps on her toes, she'll make them regret it.
    "They tried to burn down my house," Mattie said. "I object."
    "Lady," Beard said, "You're fucking crazy."
    Mattie fed him a steel-shod glare. "Young man," she said, "I turn fifty-nine this November and I didn't get there being frightened by the likes of you."
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Deputy Sergeant Richard Strandell of the Whidbey Island Sheriff's Department. He's the officer who closed the case as a suicide, and he'll use every law and rule he can to keep it that way.
  • Pragmatic Hero: While Amber is not averse to telling fibs, bending rules or cutting shady deals, she does it with a more general "good cause" in mind.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Most of Amber's opponents operate this way.
  • Rape as Drama
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: Xander, with the speech aimed at society in general.
  • Rules Lawyer: Stone uses this against Strandell and in Amber's favor.
  • Scary Black Man: Subverted in the case of Terrence Stone. While he is large and looks intimidating, he's revealed to be a stable family man who being a police officer seriously and has an easygoing sense of humor.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Discussed between Mattie and Amber; Amber gets a bit too cynical about the case and Mattie gently chides her for it.
  • The Stoic: Rachelle Hooper tries for this, although there are times when events overwhelm her.
  • Tranquil Fury: How Rachelle gets angry.
  • The Vamp: Deconstructed and Played for Drama with Elaine Hooper. It is implied that Lanie might have been using sex to manipulate Rachelle despite the latter genuinely caring for her, but whether that was due to a selfish streak or mental issues from her unpleasant life is never resolved.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Rachelle spares Calloway's life solely on moral grounds. She doesn't spare him entirely, however...
  • Worthy Opponent: After some Snark-to-Snark Combat and a few disgusting references fail to rattle her, Irish Bob decides Amber is worth cutting a deal with.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Amber plays it throughout the story.
  • You Killed My Father: Rachelle, to Billy Calloway regarding Lanie's murder.