The Hangman's Replacement

Sprout of Disruption

Fiction - Thriller - General
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 03/06/2014
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Mamta Madhavan for Readers' Favorite

The Hangman's Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko is the story of a hangman. Zimbabwe's last hangman retired in 2004 and they now have to find a replacement for him. Not many come forward to apply because of the local belief that the murdered person's soul will come back to torment the hangman and his family. Abel Muranda is on his way to Harare to apply for the job. Abel needs the job desperately to feed his starving family. When he arrives, he realizes that there is much more to the job than just being a gallows operator.

The story is original and compelling. The reader sees a lot of twists in the plot. Abel finds himself surrounded by interesting and intriguing characters who indirectly and directly influence his life. The author has woven the various sub-plots into the main theme beautifully. All the characters in the sub-plots have their own story, but then the author's skillful handling of the subject makes the plot tight. The book will keep you absorbed till the end. Readers get to stretch their imaginations after reading the book, which has shades of sex, sorcery, violence, manipulation, and poverty. There are many complex scenes in the story.

It is an excellent read and readers will not be disappointed with the story. The book also exposes you to the African culture which is informative. I really enjoyed the story mainly, because of its originality and then because of the author's skillful handling of the subject.

Si Ning Yeoh

A disgraced professor with a lusty libido and a murderous aunt. A brilliant lawyer who loathes human interaction. A gallows-maker with a dangerous desire for facilitating death. An honorable judge with the highest record of capital convictions. And a righteous man who is determined to become Zimbabwe’s next hangman. On the surface, these individuals - and many others - have nothing in common. In reality, they are linked together by their roles as helpless pawns on a sinister chessboard that they do not understand. Soon, these individuals will have to fight in a game that they cannot win. Soon, they will realize that their entire existence has been manipulated by a deadly, sleep-deprived genius - he who created the impossible, the carnivorous flame lily. Such is the premise of Taona Chiveneko’s novel, The Hangman’s Replacement.

The Hangman’s Replacement is a darkly humorous and gritty story set in a bizarre Zimbabwe. Taono Chiveneko’s creativity knows no bounds as he creates a world where men may meet fantastical deaths by stalactites and lightning bolts while others wrap their naked bodies in condom-like latex suits to ward off pollen, all of which happens at the behest of a powerful antagonist who has planned out their fates years ago. At times philosophical and insightful, at times dramatic and unpredictable, The Hangman’s Replacement skillfully blends fact and fiction as it explores the themes of sex, politics, love, and death. My only gripe is that there are so many characters that it is occasionally difficult to keep track of who is who. However, Chiveneko crafts out the colorful characters with such loving detail, deftly bringing such vitality and individuality to each, that confusion does not last long. All in all, I’d recommend this as a highly unusual and intriguing read.

Kayti Nika Raet

Taona D. Chiveneko's The Hangman's Replacement is a clever novel set in Zimbabwe. It begins with a man named Abel Muranda, who travels all the way from his small village to the big city to interview for the job of Zimbabwe's newest hangman. The post had been left open after the last hangman retired in 2004. With an opening that's slightly tongue-in-cheek (imagine a slightly less depressed but no less absurd or witty Lemony Snicket), The Hangman's Replacement soon moves beyond the grisly interview to encompass scientists, lawyers, prostitutes, man-eating plants, and shady, meticulous puppeteering that has all the players exactly in their place yet deeply entangled with one another. Filled with double- and triple-crosses, as well as plot twists you just won't see coming, The Hangman's Replacement is a book filled with all the darkness and paranoia of a thriller and the wit of a satire; it requires a mind for puns and a dry, yet morbid sense of humor.

The best way to describe The Hangman's Replacement is like a spider's web as it is filled with plot threads that might entangle the unwary fly, but is so complex and beautifully written that you can't help but admire it. Even the most seemingly inconsequential character was connected in some way to the bigger plot and, as The Hangman's Replacement is the first in a series, those were only seeds planted to grow into an even bigger arc. As I was reading The Hangman's Replacement I felt that its tongue-in-cheek approach was also a way to poke fun at negative social mores and politics, but since I'm not from Zimbabwe a lot of the pokes passed right over my head. Despite that fact The Hangman's Replacement still made for an interesting and enjoyable read.

Faridah Nassozi

In The Hangman's Replacement: Sprout of Disruption by Taona Dumisani Chiveneko, Abel Muranda is a family man and a desperate person. The poverty in his village was threatening to destroy his life and he could barely afford to feed his family. When a well-wisher lined up an interview in town for him, Abel vowed to do anything to get the job - this was the only way he could save his family and he was determined to do just that. After walking for three weeks, he finally reached the city and finished the interview. The job was to become a hangman for the country and, despite the gruesome job description, it offered everything else he could dream of and even more; a very good salary, plenty of time with his family, and full benefits. He did not know the true motives of his potential employers, and what was going on behind the scenes, with certain people determined to keep him from getting the job while others pulled all possible strings to make sure he did.

The Hangman's Replacement is a very interesting story with a unique plot. Taona Dumisani Chiveneko created a special character in this illiterate man who was wiser than those with multiple degrees. His hilarious logic, his somehow twisted sense of right and wrong, and his love for his family were all beyond anything I can think of. Taona Dumisani Chiveneko's detailed writing style completely draws you into the story of this extraordinary man who would do anything, anything legal, to provide a better life for his family. The mixture of the characters in the book, plus intriguing and sometimes dramatic events, coupled with bizarre scientific theories and odd traditional beliefs make The Hangman's Replacement an interesting read.

Samantha Rivera

Abel Muranda is not your average job hunter. His family is starving and he is willing to do just about anything that will keep that from happening. That’s why he travels for several days to interview for a job as a hangman. With no education, no ability to read and write, and only two sets of clothes to his name, Abel is determined to get the job and save his family. But there are others in the picture as well. Professor Khupe is one of those people. He’s looking to make a name for himself in the scientific world when he releases information about a new plant that has been discovered to contain human DNA. But there are others interested in this plant for more than just scientific research and they’ll stop at nothing to get what they want in The Hangman’s Replacement by Taona Chiveneko.

It may seem strange to have a story of a man looking for a job and a life for his family mixed in with a story about dangerous men and carnivorous plants (oh, did I forget to mention the new discovery is carnivorous?) But there’s a lot going on for Abel in The Hangman’s Replacement and there’s definitely plenty of strange things going on for Professor Khupe as well. With Vaida, Mr. Gejo, and all the rest of the interesting cast, you will be intrigued to learn more about the story and the way that a hangman and a flower could have anything to do with one another. There’s more to this story than meets the eye.