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Sunday 20 March 2016

‘The New Eastgate Swing’ by Chris Nickson

Published by The Mystery Press,
3 February 2016.
ISBN: 978 0 7509 6698 6 (PB)

It pulls you up short when you pick up a ‘historical’ mystery and realize the action took place in your lifetime!

So it was with The New Eastgate Swing, the second in Leeds-based crime writer Chris Nickson’s series of 1950s ‘noir’ novels featuring enquiry agent Dan Markham. And if my childhood memory serves me well, it all felt exactly right.

Nickson’s familiarity with his home city, whatever the era, has become his trademark through three separate series of historical mystery novels. In the Dan Markham titles, he adds a surefooted knowledge of jazz, complete with old 78rpm records and slightly sleazy basement clubs in which three-piece combos share space with raw-edged skiffle groups.

The characters, too, come to life from the outset; he’s especially skilled at making beautiful women into real people with talents, quirks and vulnerabilities. And then there’s that setting: Leeds, in all its grey 1950s detail, is almost as much a character as Markham himself.

By the 1950s, Leeds is becoming a little more like the place it is today, if you don’t count the ever-present shadow of the H-bomb, the Cold War, the police’s somewhat cavalier attitude to human rights, and the wide availability of free parking spaces. Dan Markham’s shady wartime past in intelligence comes in useful, as does an acquaintance from the first book in the series: former Detective Sergeant Stephen Baker, now retired and in search of an occupation to keep him out from under his wife’s feet.

Baker becomes Markham’s new partner, and when a missing persons case they are investigating intersects with a job offered to them by glamorous rival enquiry agent Amanda Fox, they soon find themselves on the trail of a number of suspicious deaths. Amanda’s husband disappears in suspect circumstances while abroad on business, and the chase is on – but it rapidly becomes evident that Markham  is the hunted as well as the hunter.

Nickson knows how to craft a good plot, with plenty of twists and questions in need of answers. This one takes place in a spooky derelict factory as well as on the mean streets, and gathers pace right up to the tense final chapters; it’s giving nothing away to reveal that the take-down happens in underground tunnels which few people know exist.

Chris Nickson is one of many crime writers who really deserve to be better known. If there’s any justice, The New Eastgate Swing will help to make that happen.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Chris Nickson was born and raised in Leeds. He is the author of the Richard Nottingham books, historical mysteries set in Leeds in the 1730s and featuring Richard Nottingham, the Constable of the city, and his deputy, John Sedgwick. The books are about more than murder. They're about the people of Leeds and the way life was - which mean full of grinding poverty for all but the wealthy. They're also about families, Nottingham and his and Sedgwick, and the way relationships grow and change, as well as the politics, when there was one law for the rich, and another, much more brutal, for everyone else. In addition to this Chris is also a music journalist, reviewing for magazines and online outlets

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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