Suffragettes and serial killers have the populace of Victorian Leeds on edge.
Apart from losing his hearing in one ear, DI Tom Harper, a successful police officer, and his wife, Annabelle, the ambitious owner of a public house and three bakeries, seem to have little to fear. Unlike other men who feel threatened by women getting any power, he supports Annabelle’s interest in the Leeds Suffragist Society. Their calm is shattered when two nasty cases arrive on Harper’s desk. One involves a newborn baby found dead in a parcel posted to an undeliverable address and the other, the body of a badly burned woman who’s been stabbed to death in the rubble remaining after a massive fire at the train station. Billy Reed, who transferred to the fire service after a disagreement with Harper, is assigned to help his former partner in the fire-related death. At length the woman is identified as Catherine Sugden Carr, a former lady’s maid who married the wealthy widower who employed her. He claims she moved out after taking up for women’s votes; one of the servants tells the police he beat her. Then Catherine’s brother, Stanley Sugden, a former army sniper and scout who’s been placed in an insane asylum, escapes and begins killing people. While the whole police force tries to hunt Sugden down, Harper and Reed still must discover who murdered his sister.
Not the best of Nickson’s Victorian mysteries (Two Bronze Pennies, 2015, etc.) but still full of engaging characters as the author continues to intertwine social problems with murder.