Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for To The Dark by Chris Nickson, the third book in his Simon Westow historical mystery series. My thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour and to Severn House for my digital review copy via NetGalley.
About the Book
Winter is about to take a chilling twist…
Leeds, 1822. The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for thief-taker Simon Westow and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river at Flay Cross Mill.
A coded notebook found in Laurence’s room mentions Charlie Harker, the most notorious fence in Leeds who’s now running for his life, and the mysterious words: To the dark. What was Laurence hiding that caused his death? Simon’s hunt for the truth pits him against some dangerous, powerful enemies who’ll happily kill him in a heartbeat – if they can.
Format: ebook (224 pages) Publisher: Severn House
Publication date: 31st December 2020 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Find To The Dark on Goodreads
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To The Dark is the third book in Chris Nickson’s historical crime series featuring thief-taker Simon Westow. Having not read the previous two books in the series, I can testify to the fact To The Dark works perfectly well as a standalone. Indeed for the benefit of new readers like myself the author includes nuggets of information about the back stories of the main characters – Simon himself, his wife Rosie and his assistant Jane.
Jane is a particularly intriguing character. Clearly she has a troubled past but possesses an uncanny ability to pass unnoticed in a crowd, mingling with those on the boundaries of society in order to gather information helpful to Simon’s investigations. And she’s more than capable of looking after herself in risky situations.
Simon is an intuitive reader of others’ actions and intentions – useful in a fight, when seeking information or in a game of cards. It’s just as well because his work as a thief-taker (recovering stolen goods for a fee) brings him into contact with some pretty shady types. Now a family man, he has more to protect than before.
Set in early 19th century Leeds, readers familiar with that city are likely to recognize many of the locations featured in the book. It’s a city that is changing though as it becomes more industrialized with many of its inhabitants taking up employment in the new “manufactories” that fill the air with smog and smoke. I enjoyed the way the author conjured up the sights and sounds of the city such as during this evening stroll down Briggate.
“The night was alive with people. Groups moved from beer shop to dram shop, singing and laughing. The whores stood their pitches at the entrances to courts, joking and teasing for business. Lights glowed behind shutters and reflected in puddles on the pavement. Someone played a fiddle, a rousing jig that carried in the winter air.”
From the beginning, Simon senses there’s more than meets the eye about his engagement to help find the murderer of Laurence Poole, especially as that should be the responsibility of the city’s Constable. “He knew he was caught up in something political, a twisted, grubby little spectacle.” His suspicions are proved correct when the hunter becomes the hunted. Soon there are scores to be settled and justice to be served.
To The Dark is a well-crafted historical mystery with plenty of twists and turns. I liked the fact that Simon’s role is not that of traditional detective or police officer. It’s certainly a series I shall be looking out for more of in the future.
In three words: Suspenseful, assured, atmospheric
Try something similar: None So Blind by Alis Hawkins
About the Author
Chris Nickson has published 28 novels, all historical crime, most of them set in Leeds, whose people and history are his passion. The Richard Nottingham series began things, taking place in the 1730s, followed by the Tom Harper novels, which begin in 1890 and have now moved to the 20th century. Between them, Lottie Armstrong, Urban Raven and Dan Markham cover Leeds from the 1920s to the 1950s.
The three books featuring thief-taker Simon Westow explore a changing Leeds, growing rapidly in the 1820s as industry – the factories and mills and belching chimneys – comes to dominate the town. The Hocus Girl, the second in the series, received starred reviews from Kirkus, which called it a “tour de force,” and Publishers Weekly, which declared “historical mysteries don’t get much better than this.’
Chris grew up in Leeds, but lived in the US for many years, making his living as a music journalist. He still reviews occasional releases, but his focus these days is fiction.