Leeds, 1734. A young man comes to the city searching for his sister. Constable Richard Nottingham promises to help, but has little hope of finding her. What he does find the next day is the young man, lying dead with his throat cut. It’s not long before his sister turns up as well – and she’s been murdered too.
As Nottingham struggles with his grief over the recent loss of someone close to him, he searches for a killer, despite his doubt in his own powers to find the culprit. But tragedy then strikes closer to home – someone is vandalising his daughter’s school and then someone close to him is subject to a brutal beating. With death all around him, will he be able to find one criminal in a city seemingly full of them?
Another new author to me, Chris Nickson is the writer of six historical mysteries set in Leeds (and a few other odds and ends too). We’re into the reign of George II, further forward in history than I tend to go with my historical mystery reading, but oddly, I couldn’t really tell for a while (not having read the blurb) when we were. While we are clearly in the past, no-one seems particular inclined to mention any recent historical events to give a sense of time. At one point, we get a date of a past event which set the scene for me, but it occurred to me that this actually makes a lot of sense, especially for a novel set outside London, and not featuring any major historical events. Georgian Leeds is a pretty depressing place, but Nickson brings it vividly to life with some striking descriptive writing.
There’s a very strong central core of characters here. I’ve not read the previous five books, but the author has a real art for making you care about these people that you’ve just met. There are a couple of important events in this book and I was shocked and moved when they happened. God knows what I would have been like if I’d read the rest of the series first and been even more invested in their well-being. Nervous wreck, probably…
This is a real page-turner (saying that a lot recently) and a must-read author for anyone who wants to go a bit beyond the current Tudor trend of historical fiction.
The mystery element? Well, it’s a proper whodunit but it did use one of my least favourite tricks to hide the murderer – I won’t say what, but it’s not cheating. I just don’t like it much. Didn’t really care though, as I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to going back and reading the earlier ones. If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, where the history is just as important as the mystery, then this is Highly Recommended. As with Crimson Rose, it’s only out in hardback at the moment, so best to check out your local library.
My copy was supplied to me by the publisher via Netgalley.