First off, I’d like to give a disclaimer: I am a little too old for this book, so I have found faults with it that age appropriate readers probably wouldn’t notice. Also, being a writer, I am highly critical of style as well as content, and make notes to myself the entire time I read most anything, which makes me a little nit picky. That being said, let’s get to the review.
The whole idea behind the series is that there is a private organization, called the Veritas Project, which investigates bizarre crime scenes with the object of finding the truth using a Christ-centered perspective. The thing about this that I found rather hard to swallow is that it reports back to the President, without actually being federal. The individual cases are even discussed on the phone with him before the group takes them. I can’t really imagine any of our recent Presidents, even the “Christian” ones, supporting something outside of their federal control, let alone taking the time for private phone calls with them. I think Peretti would have been just as well off making it a completely private organization.
I also felt that it came off a little preachy in the beginning, when the goals and methods of the organization were being explained, and in the end, when things were being wrapped up. I have nothing against explaining Christianity in fiction, but I do have something against dumping all of one’s beliefs, or a character’s beliefs, into one conversation, no matter what those beliefs are. It’s too much explaining. Even in a conversation full of tension, it can still be dry and boring, and, well, preachy.
A very minor thing that bothered me was the one main character, a girl named Elisha, is straight out described as “attractive.” I have no problem with good looking characters, but I want to be shown that they’re attractive, not told. Paired with a perfect Christian personality, it just made her seem less real, like an ideal. Tell me she has blond hair, tell me she has a sweet smile, but don’t tell me she’s “attractive.” It just feels lazy to me. Anyway, that’s more of a pet peeve than anything else.
Those are the only things I have to say against the book, however. It was intense, interesting, had well thought out and diverse characters, kept up the suspense, and had you double-guessing till the very end. The danger was real and frightening, the stakes were high. I think this book is perfect for eighth through tenth graders, though be forewarned: it does deal with occult stuff. There’s nothing terribly detailed, but it is there; if your kids are in school, however, I doubt any of it will shock them. If your kids are homeschooled, you might want to make sure they know what a Ouija board is first, as, chances are, they’ve never seen one. I first heard on them when I was in sixth grade, but I’m pretty sure my brother, who is in seventh, doesn’t know about them. I guess I’ll have to ask him when I’m done with this.
So, my conclusion is, four stars for Hangman’s Curse. I still like the Cooper Kids series, by the same author, and for just a slightly younger audience, better though.