Gabriel Ross Series: Two-Faced Woman Recaps Chapters 18, 19, 20

Chapter Eighteen 39–Burden (Jiăn) Joel approaches Frank while he’s outside smoking, and speaks with him briefly. Bob is hidden away, listening. Joel is able to obtain one of Frank’s discarded cigarettes. However, Frank suddenly appears at Joel’s car, and tells…

Gabriel Ross Series Recaps–Two-Faced Woman Recaps Chapters 21, 22, Coda

Chapter Twenty-One: 61 Sincerity (Zhōng Fú) Gabriel has a dream in which he speaks to Raymond Booth. Raymond encourages Gabriel to tell him what’s he’s doing to make his life worthwhile. Geneva goes to visit Baker; Gabriel and Joel drive her…

Gabriel Ross Series Recaps–The Hanged Man, Chapters 1, 2, 3

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Next: Chapters 4, 5, 6


A clue wall collage with images of Gabriel Ross, Raymond Booth, and elements of the story

Credit [Image collage by AF, Death Card Welcome Images via Wikimedia]

The Hanged Man became the title of the first book because of the mysteriousness of the card. The Hanged Man card features a man hanging from a tree, by his foot. He is not being hanged as in execution, but rather as a metaphor of suspension in the cosmos–indecision, or being on the cusp of a difficult situation. The Hanged Man as book title refers mainly to a character who shows up later in the story, but it is applicable to Gabriel as well–for the life or death choice he must make, and the situation Gabriel is in at the beginning of the book–severe financial straits.

The framework for The Hanged Man is the divination of Tarot cards. A Tarot deck has around 78 cards, but numbers vary. The decks are usually divided into major and minor arcana. Major Arcana are larger overarching ideas and symbolism, such as the cards reflecting the book title and Chapter One. The minor arcana is divided into cups (emotions), swords (intellectual), pentacles (business) and wands (energies).

Chapter One has The Magician. Usually this is Card 1 in a tarot deck. Gabriel is the Magician, of course, because of his intellectual and physical capabilities, and that extra something that makes him a hero–a strong confidence and belief in himself that helps break tough cases. People can make their own luck through their experiences and confidence.

Let’s begin the Gabriel’s World Journey: 

Chapter One: The Magician:

Gabriel Ross is a 36-year old gay private investigator who lives in NYC. As the book opens, he is being released from an arrest in the small town of Buckston, New Jersey. He was arrested for punching out a bigoted preacher, who set up a protest of Gabriel’s friend’s funeral.

Now Gabriel is facing some bad press, but he has a new client–Raymond Booth, a well-to-do art attorney. Raymond hires Gabriel because of Gabriel’s actions in Buckston. Now Raymond explains that he is on the board of a respected cultural institution in Manhattan. A fellow board member, Eleanor, had confided in Raymond that she overheard another board member speak of his close relationship to a former Nazi. Raymond wants Gabriel to find out more about the connection between the (unnamed) board member and the Nazi. Gabriel is psyched to begin the case–his finances and his reputation are hurting. Raymond drives Gabriel back to the East Village, where Gabriel lives.

However, Raymond doesn’t email Gabriel the retainer as promised. Gabriel’s alarm grows over the weekend; then finally the phone rings. However, it’s Raymond’s sister Antoinette (Toni.) She demands to know what Gabriel has done with Raymond.

Chapter Two: The Queen of Swords

Toni Booth tells Gabriel that she was supposed to meet with Raymond this weekend. However, he’s not in his apartment and doesn’t respond to her calls. She’s anxious, as Raymond was going to write her a much-needed check from the family trust fund. Toni knows why Raymond hired Gabriel, and she’s suspicious that Gabriel may have said something to scare Raymond into disappearing. Gabriel convinces her this is not the case. He meets with Toni the next day while he is working another case. Gabriel’s working for a man trying to prove his wife’s infidelity. Because Toni showed up late, she has to go along with him when he follows the wife’s lover. Toni even boldly provides cover for Gabriel by kissing him when the mark checks for tails.  

Although Toni has a difficult and and sometimes petulant personality, she likes Gabriel, and Gabriel has empathy for her and her situation as a single mother. Her adolescent son Adam has a relationship with Raymond much like Gabriel’s with his late uncle Dominic. Gabriel and Toni talk in a park. Toni wants to hire him, although she says she has no money. She attempts to sweet-talk Gabriel to taking the case for free. When Gabriel declines, Toni gets angry with him and leaves.

Gabriel returns to his apartment, emotionally exhausted. Suddenly there’s a knock on the door. Toni is there, with the fee to start his case.

Chapter  Three: The Seven of Swords

Toni signs the retainer agreement, and gives Gabriel the keys to Raymond’s apartment–she trusts him implicitly. Gabriel looks for clues in the apartment, and finds a lead about Raymond’s cell phone, which is still in the area at a coffee shop nearby. The barista gives Gabriel Raymond’s phone. Gabriel then finds out that a man had met with Raymond on the day he met Gabriel, and apparently Raymond got sick and left with the man. The barista, Nicolas, shows Gabriel security footage of the incident.

Gabriel informs Toni of what happened, and they plan to go the area precinct to update the police on what’s happened to Raymond. The next morning, Gabriel stops by Raymond’s apartment one last time to check. The apartment feels very cold. Gabriel finds Raymond’s body naked and bound in the bedroom.

Between the Pages: 

  • Gabriel is excellent at his work as a private investigator, and successful, but having money problems. I was feeling the wrath of the recession of 00’s into the 10’s myself, and I could feel how difficult having a small business can be, and Gabriel has the added burden of bad press. Gabriel is struggling against his motives being questioned by the media, courtesy of a former boss who has badmouthed Gabriel to local reporters. Bad press becomes a theme in this story, whether established media or nasty commenters on YouTube. Ever been in one of those financial states where you seriously worry over how the rent will be met next month? Gabriel is so there. Not due to lack of skills, but lack of clients–it’s a bad time for the country for those who aren’t one-percenters. Pressure in his life due to trying to simply keep his head above water no doubt contributed to his loss of temper in Buckston. It’s certainly the major reason he’s near panic over not hearing from Raymond regarding the retainer. Gabriel has a some clients on retainer (the type of cases can range from background checks, to investigating insurance fraud, to working for attorneys). Some clients aren’t bothered by Gabriel’s notoriety, but some cancel their arrangement with him. He accepts his own responsibility for this.And yet, while Gabriel is in these dire straits, the fact remains that Gabriel was able to work magic in obtaining an important new client and case through an act that could have easily ruined his career. Gabriel is not a morally ambiguous magician; he is one who works his magic on principle.
  • Gabriel’s Badassery is absolutely intended, from his training in boxing/baguazhang, his superb ability to shoot, his capability to withstand pain, and his intelligence that helps him outwit far more powerful people. He is the keystone of a new hero, as we do not at this time have mainstream gay Jason Bourne/Bond in the movies. Gabriel is a man who often gets too close to his cases. The passion he has for his work makes him good at it, but when he’s drawn in too far, his judgment can get skewed. That can lead to him getting himself in trouble, as we’ll see.
  • Other things learned in Chapter One: Gabriel has a second job writing articles for an online magazine, NYCultcha; Gabriel lives in Alphabet City; he has a black and white tuxedo cat, Archie; Gabriel apparently has a bad relationship with his father. Gabriel would have gladly been a Nazi hunter if he could, as his mother wishes she had been.Gabriel is a man who is deeply disturbed by bigotry, and has a bit of a temper. Everything in the books has potential to be called back at a later time; the YouTube videos of Gabriel’s incident are a primary example of this. Gabriel finds that people may love what he did or disapprove of it, but they recognize him as that guy who punched out the preacher. It may seem like a punishment to carry that with him, but it is actually part of his being a magician. His striking back set in motion his new case, his  formidable nemesis, as well as a major change in his personal life. However, it is also an understanding of accountability. Gabriel lost his temper in a way he regrets. He has to think about how to avoid that happening again, or worse.Metaphorically, Gabriel took a risky step for a principle, which set him on a different course. It was the right thing, to him, and the tagline for this book is, What would you sacrifice to do the right thing?
  • Toni Booth is the Queen of Swords. Toni is quite the hot mess. And yet, I hope there is something sympathetic to her. Toni is a person who has made very bad decisions in her life, and is not thinking too well when her needs overcome her. And yet, she does love her son and her brother, genuinely. A very tricky personality–the person who manipulates by nature, yet has genuine feelings. Toni is not a sociopath.I think Toni’s methodology is summed when after her first attempt to persuade Gabriel fails, she says, “Don’t you feel any responsibility?” That’s the thing–Gabriel does. Too much, if anything. He’s already offered her a discounted retainer, and been very courteous about it. But Toni isn’t having that. She’s pushed her limits again, taking a cigarette out Gabriel’s mouth for her own needs, and gone from trying to paint a frightening picture of what’s possibly happened to Raymond (“maybe he lost his memory”) to being brattish (“What would that be?”). Now she works on an area she’s instinctively felt is Gabriel’s vulnerability. This is what manipulators do. I give credit to Gabriel for holding his own. If she had kept at him, though…
  • No Sense of Personal Space with Toni. She’s not malicious about it, she just doesn’t have a sense of boundaries. People who find manipulation a necessity for survival become good at pushing boundaries. Gabriel’s empathy leaves him vulnerable to allowing his boundaries to be overstepped. Toni just researched where Gabriel lived (there’s paid databases with that information) and showed up rather than simply call and ask to meet him.
  • Toni is a person of heavy scents–Marlboro and Opium; Gabriel doesn’t wear a watch due to a fight in the subway years before (referenced again in Two-Faced Woman) that ground the watch glass into his wrist and left a scar. We also find out more music Gabriel likes: U2, Matchbox Twenty, Erasure. If you don’t like Erasure, your Queer card is officially revoked.
  • Certain touches are unique to Gabriel’s World, the details that make up the world and the characters, so to speak. Restaurants with weird names is one of those. The coffee shop is called Cafétière Maléfice. It translates to something like “evil coffeemaker.” Also, people getting into buildings (Toni again) without using the buzzer.
  • Trivia: Gabriel wears a shirt with Phoenix Sun forward Grant Hill’s number, 33. Grant Hill had participated in an anti-homophobia PSA in 2011.
  • Death is almost always a story element. Everything changes with death. Raymond can no longer be a client, he can only be a victim. Gabriel’s case, already interesting to him, takes a dive into horror.  

Beyond the Pages:

  • I’m a huge fan of the site TV Tropes, which is great to read about well-done and awfully-done elements/tropes (devices, conventions, archetypes, and so on) of all kinds. If any trope sums up Gabriel, it’s Badass Gay. As TT describes it, Badass is “an adjective used to describe a character who gets away with outright insane stunts.” Yes, this is Gabriel. I’d throw in that a Badass has characteristics of a Jason Bourne or James Bond, but isn’t necessarily a spy. Angst is another trope. A couple of reader reviews have referenced Gabriel’s angsty character. He also has a tendency toward Collateral Angst, feeling guilty and haunted over what happens to others.
  • The real extent of Odessa is hard to determine. Gabriel is going on the information he has at the moment. The fact is many Nazis did manage to avoid capture, extradition, and prosecution. These persons were assisted by various means and networks. It may not have been The Boys from Brazil or The Odessa File, but it was there. In some cases, these persons were helped by means of covering their past–Operation Paperclip, in order to recruit them to the US for intelligence and science organizations, such as NASA.A good book to read on the topic is Uki Goñi’s The Real Odessa. 

Questions for Readers:

The incident in Buckston follows Gabriel around–courtesy of YouTube. He acted out of anger, and he doesn’t necessarily regret it. Gabriel has to take responsibility for what happened. He’s a street fighter…he’s used to schoolyard brawls and the occasional fistfight. However, this is a situation where he has to deal with the legal and professional consequences. He accepts that. How difficult is taking responsibility? How hard is it to avoid trying to put the blame off on others?

I have three songs that sum up the first three chapters. For Chapter One, David Gray’s First Chance I Get. Gabriel is a huge David Gray fan. Gray is absolutely breathtaking in his music. This song, which I saw live, with such power, has a sense of knowing the world is breathing down your neck, and you’re sacking up to deal with it.

For Chapter Two, Rob Thomas, Her Diamonds. This is a beautiful song about trying to take some of the pain from a partner who is in pain. It fits Toni and the inner pain she has, that is only alluded to in the book. Gabriel has a connection with her (as seen in Two-Faced Woman) and would take away her furious pain if he could. Sometimes, we have no idea how to help another person in distress, and the only thing that can be given is empathy.

For Chapter Three, Coldplay, The Scientist. This choice is based both upon the melancholy tone of the song and the video, in which a tragedy is viewed in reverse time. The singer/protagonist says, “Let’s go back to the start.” Gabriel in his mind is going back to the start, when he first saw Raymond, as it’s incomprehensible that Raymond is now dead.

Extras: Stories

Some years before The Hanged Man was the definitive Gabriel’s World first story, Gabriel was in another manuscript with a story that was the beginnings of the story in THM. The old story began with a passage even more angsty than Gabriel is now. Read more below for the beginning to that story and Gabriel’s conflict between his actions and his ethics.