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Thursday, 28 January 2021

‘To the Dark’ by Chris Nickson

Published by Severn House,
31st December 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-9245-4 (HB)
 

It is 1823 in Leeds, a place full of factories and mills. Smoke and soot hang in the air from all the chimneys making it a job to breathe.

On a cold winter's day with snow on the ground, thief taker Simon Westow and his assistant Jane, come across a crowd gathered at an old derelict mill. A body has been found under the slowly melting snow. Simon recognises him as Lawrence Poole, a thief who he had tracked down a few weeks ago. Simon and Jane rush to Poole's address to carry out a quick search before Williams the constable and his men arrive. They find a notebook, but it is mainly in code, one name however that they can make out is Harker a well-known fence. He also has a reputation for dealing harshly with anyone who cheats him. Could he be the culprit?

Later when Simon questions him he says it was two cavalry men who killed Poole as he used to steal for them. Simon wonders if he is telling the truth or just putting the blame onto them to cover himself.

Simon is surprised when the constable hires him to help catch the killer as Williams has no time for him. He surmises that it is to claim the credit for himself and so ensure he keeps his job. The powers that be have another man ready to take the position of constable should Williams fail, and he loves his cushy position.

Meanwhile, a terrified looking Harker is seen catching a coach leaving Leeds. Simon decides to follow up his accusations of the cavalry officers committing the murder.

However, the garrison they are attached to is very hard to penetrate and Simon is thwarted at every turn. He discovers that the two soldiers in question frequent the local public house and play cards. He gets to meet them, but can he find out if they had anything to do with Poole's death without causing suspicion?

Jane meanwhile has her own problems. She is continuously pursued by “Big Tom” a notorious criminal whom she had maimed the previous year. He is out to exact revenge. She grew up with the very poor of Leeds and uses all her knowledge of the places they hide out in to help Simon gather more information. They think they are slowly getting nearer solving the murder, but not before there are more deaths, one of which affects Simon very badly.

An incredibly descriptive book which transports the reader back to the grime and thick smoky air of 1823 Leeds. The author creates such an atmosphere that I could almost taste the acrid pollution.

I really enjoyed this murder mystery and thoroughly recommend it.
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Reviewer: Tricia Chappell

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. Chris has penned a further six series, and to date has published 31 books. For full details visit his web site. In addition to this Chris is also a music journalist, reviewing for magazines and online outlets

http://chrisnickson.co.uk/

Tricia Chappell. I have a great love of books and reading, especially crime and thrillers. I play the occasional game of golf  (when I am not reading). My great love is cruising especially to far flung places, when there are long days at sea for plenty more reading! I am really enjoying reviewing books and have found lots of great new authors.

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