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Monday, 7 May 2018

‘The Tin God’ by Chris Nickson


Published by Severn House,
30 March 2018.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8786-3 (HB)

It is October 1897 and Tom Harper has worked his way up the ranks to become a police superintendent in Leeds. He enjoys being a police officer, although he feels that his present position entails too much paperwork and not enough actual detection. Life promises to be very hectic for the next few weeks, as Tom’s wife Annabelle has decided to run for election to the Board of Poor Law Guardians, one of the few political positions that a woman is entitled to stand for, and she has just started her campaign. The role of the Poor Law Guardians is to look after the welfare of the poor in their district and Annabelle is standing for the Sheepscar Ward. Although Poor Law Guardian is not an important political position, the Tories and Liberals are already deriding Annabelle and the other women campaigning in different wards, claiming that they are trying to move out of their natural role in life and that women are not fitted to enter politics. The outrage at women putting themselves forward is encouraged by Gerald Hotchkiss, a journalist on the local newspaper. All this is annoying but not unexpected, what nobody foresaw was that the women standing for office would receive threats of physical violence.

The first letters that Annabelle and the other women received were hectoring, the second letters were threatening, but when Tom and Annabelle approach the hall to set up for the meeting Annabelle is about to hold, a bomb blast destroys the building and kills the caretaker. Despite feeling shocked and saddened by the caretaker’s death, Annabelle refuses to be cowed into abandoning her campaign and the other women also hold firm. Amongst the debris of the hall, Tom discovers a piece of paper, which is identified as part of an old folk song – a song in which a woman is killed. Soon after, another woman who is standing for office is attacked and a similar piece of paper, from another old song, is found. Tom consults Frank Kidson, a specialist in collecting folk songs, who does his best to help. Further outrages follow, including murder. It is clear that the police are dealing with an obsessed fanatic who will prevent women from standing for political office at any cost, and who always leaves his sinister ‘calling card,’ a fragment of a folk song involving a woman’s violent death. When Tom and Annabelle’s daughter, Mary, is threatened by the killer, Annabelle has to question whether she should stick to her principles and continue her campaign even when it could mean risking an unbearable loss.

In a lightly linking storyline, Billy Reed, Tom’s colleague and one-time friend has moved to Whitby with his wife Elizabeth. Billy thought the quiet, seaside town would be a peaceful change from Leeds but soon he finds himself pursuing a violent gang of smugglers, and the trail to find their leader steers him back towards Leeds.

The Tin God is the sixth book in the series featuring Tom Harper, but the author shows remarkable skill in weaving in necessary background information without impacting on the pace of a fascinating story. The political details are also integrated with great skill as is the use of real historical characters, such as Frank Kidson. The plot is clever and well-paced and the characterisation is superb. Tom and Annabelle are engaging protagonists, warm, lively, strong and delightfully down-to-earth. The Tin God is a page-turner, which I thoroughly recommend.
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Reviewer: Carol Westron

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
http://chrisnickson.co.uk/
  
Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel,
The Deadly Dames. 
Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. 
The Terminal Velocity of Cats the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.


To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.






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