Published by Severn House,
6 September 2022.
ISBN: 978-0-7278-5047-8 (HB)
The book begins in December 1916, when the First World War is claiming the lives of a generation of young men, while their women step up to fill the job vacancies this has caused. Life is dark for Tom Harper, as it is for much of the world. Harper is a working-class man who, by hard work and ability, has risen from being a constable on the beat, through the ranks, to become Deputy Chief Constable. As if this was not challenging enough in wartime when the police force has been badly depleted, Harper has had to step up to fill the role of the Chief Constable while he is seriously ill. At home, Harper’s life is also filled with grief because his daughter’s fiancé has died in the trenches and Mary is mourning him; and Harper’s wife, Annabelle, is suffering from dementia, even though she is a relatively young woman. Before her illness took hold, Annabelle had been a lively, strong-willed woman who had successfully run the pub she inherited from her first husband; she had taken an active part in public life and had been a committed suffragette. It is an on-going stress for Harper to come home every day, uncertain whether Annabelle will be content or distraught or, worse of all, not recognise her husband and daughter. Harper is profoundly grateful for the presence of the refugee Belgian family that they took in at the start of the War: the husband helps at the pub and the wife looks after the home and cares for Annabelle.
At the start of the story, Harper is called to the scene of an explosion, which has ripped through a munitions factory, killing many of the female workers and destroying essential supplies needed at the Front. As well as the devastating loss of human life and the damage to the War effort, there is the ever-present, corrosive fear that the explosion was caused not by accident but by sabotage. A few weeks later this fear re-emerges when matches and paper, which could be used to start a fire, are discovered in an army clothing depot. This could be a totally meaningless incident but, in the atmosphere of fear and suspicion in beleaguered Britain, the police have to investigate any potential threats.
The threat becomes reality when a soldier on guard duty is shot and killed by a sniper, who disappears before anybody catches sight of him. The police and army have to work on the presumption that a saboteur is at large in Leeds. To combat this, Harper sets up a special team of his finest detectives under the control of his friend and colleague, Superintendent Ash. The police work in close collaboration with the army, who are under the command of war hero, Brigadier Fox, a brave officer and a fine man but inexperienced in matters of crime. The police use the excuse of National Security to keep reports of the shooting out of the news, but rumour soon runs rife throughout Leeds. Despite all their efforts, more shootings occur. Leeds is Harper’s city, and he is determined to save it by using any means at his disposal, official or unofficial. As he works desperately to manage his own role and that of his sick superior, Harper draws nearer to the truth, and it becomes clear that the sniper has him in his sights and his own life is in imminent danger.
A Dark Steel Death is the tenth novel in the series featuring Tom Harper, his family and colleagues. It is a dark, compelling story with authentic historical details that captures the essence of a brutal and debilitating time in British history. It explores grief and loss in many different forms and the cruel reality of shell shock, as well as the surprising courage and resilience of so many ordinary people, and, on the other hand, the despicable opportunism of war profiteers. Harper and his family are engaging protagonists and the plot is tense and involving, created by an author who excels in blending a compelling historical crime novel with incisive social commentary.
Dark Steel Death
is an excellent read which I thoroughly recommend.
Reviewer: by 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. 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
Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher. Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times. Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. 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 This Game of Ghosts click on the title.