A fire in a house that stands empty in 1733 reveals the charred corpse of a pregnant woman.
As the City of Leeds emerges from the icy clutches of winter, Constable Richard Nottingham has all the usual crimes to solve. But when he searches the burnt building and finds a young woman with a baby ripped from her womb, he and his deputies, John Sedgwick and Rob Lister, focus on tracking down a merciless killer. Each of the deputies has problems of his own. New father Sedgwick suffers from lack of sleep and an older son whose jealousy of the baby makes him run wild. Lister’s father has forbidden his marriage to Nottingham’s daughter Emily since he considers the family to be beneath his. The victim is Lucy Wendell, a simple girl with a harelip who had been turned away by the wealthy family she worked for when her pregnancy was discovered. She never returned to her mother or her blacksmith brother for help. So, what was she was doing in the month before her death? In addition to dogging the dead girl’s steps, Nottingham also has to deal with a London thief-taker who has set up shop in Leeds and may be behind a rash of burglaries and the fear that sweeps through the city when a child is kidnapped in broad daylight.
Nottingham’s fourth (The Constant Lovers, 2012, etc.) is a police procedural with a nicely detailed historical setting, the obligatory social commentary and a middling mystery.