By Art Corriveau
Available now from Amulet (Abrams)
I almost didn't pick 13 HANGMEN up due to the baseball player on the cover. Let's face it, I know almost nothing about sports and don't care to know much more. But while love of the Red Sox plays into 13 HANGMEN's plot, the book is about so much more than that.
13 HANGMEN begins when Tony DiMarco's great-uncle Zío Angelo dies and his family movies into his town home: 13 Hangmen Court. The will stipulates that Tony must live in the creepy attic room, which he reluctantly does. Then he wakes up to find Angelo in the room. Pretty soon he figures out that Angelo was actually murdered and this younger version of Angelo is the key to finding the murderer.
I absolutely loved ghostly time travel stories like Mary Downing Hahn's TIME FOR ANDREW growing up. 13 HANGMEN has much the same atmosphere, where the apparitions are friendly but other forces are more sinister. But not only would I have loved 13 HANGMEN as a kid, I devoured it as an adult.
On top of being a mystery and a time-traveling adventure, 13 HANGMEN is a celebration of Boston. The events and people described within are fictionalized or made up, but they're based on the truth. Most interestingly, 13 HANGMEN explores the history of the Italians, Jews, Irish, and blacks in Boston's North End. The residents of 13 Hangmen Court kept the home and its secrets safe despite prejudice and a very nasty set of neighbors.
Art Corriveau doesn't ignore Boston's original inhabitants either. He doesn't sugarcoat that Native Americans were killed and their property destroyed when the colonists came. In fact, it is an artifact of the Algonquins that allows Tony to meet with 13 Hangmen's past residents. (The specific traditions in the book is made up. To quote the author's note, "This is partly to protect Native American privacy. Many tribes prefer to reserve their cultural and religious practices for members of their own community [ARC, 336].")
I am so happy that I took a copy of 13 HANGMEN and read it despite the cover. I loved it's blending of mystery, history, and the paranormal. While aimed at middle grade readers, I think more advanced readers will enjoy it as well. It's a rollicking ride to catch the murderer - and find the treasure of 13 HANGMEN.