One of the questions that emerge in the course of A Hangman for Ghosts, and a question that also preoccupied Dickens, most notably in Bleak House, is whether social systems represent and embody human intentions, or inevitably come to supersede them.
The legal system and its demands gives rise to the system of transportation. Transportation necessitates the penal system, and yet piece by piece the penal colony generates its own systems: magistrates, constables, free-convicts, settlement, commerce, trade, and land transfer, until the colony becomes its own state. Human beings in the story are subject to the system, and yet from the top and the bottom they also seek to subvert it, and bend it to their ends, both moral and immoral.
This is one of Carver's greatest tests: even as hangman, does he rely on the system to evade his past and give his life structure, however cruel? And later, as he takes up the magistrate's cause, is he twisting the system to his own ends even as he advances in it? Is he able to maintain his integrity, even as he discovers how the system can be both abused and perpetrate abuses?
Perhaps this question, along with the others, was part of the interest for these two generous reviews for A Hangman for Ghosts.
Yvonne, from A Darn Good Read:
Stephanie, from 100 Pages A Day: