Leeds in 1820 provides the setting for another challenging mystery.
Simon Westow has risen above his humble beginnings to make a good living as a thief-taker. He lives in a nice house with his wife, Rosie, their twin sons, and his mysterious assistant, Jane, whose ability to blend into the background is invaluable. Now, a summons from wealthy mill owner Mr. Milner to find his kidnapped daughter lands Simon and his family in deadly peril. Milner has received a note demanding the vast sum of 1,000 pounds if he wants to see his daughter, Hannah, again, and he promises Simon 200 guineas if he finds her. Not all of Simon and Jane’s many contacts can unearth Hannah before the deadline for paying the ransom, but an angry Milner tells Simon he can take his payment out of the ransom money if he recovers it. If only this were a simple kidnapping, Simon would doubtless be more successful. But it’s all part of a plot by Julius White, a man he helped catch and convict of thievery, who was packed off to Australia with a suspiciously light sentence. Simon’s shocked to learn that White is back, seeking revenge on Simon and Lizzie Henry, the woman who pressed charges against him. Even after Hannah is found, she can give little help in describing her captor. It’s soon clear that White has powerful friends who are helping to hide him while he plots and stalks his future victims. Simon and Jane pursue every possible lead, but White always seems one step ahead of them, and they’re followed and often attacked by his minions. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game ensues, with no guarantee of who will win.
An exciting debut for the third of Nickson’s Leeds-based detectives (The Tin God, 2018, etc.). Filled with his trademark social commentary and steeped in Regency atmosphere, it holds your interest from beginning to end.