Energetically prolific, bouncing back and forth between contemporary mysteries and Victorian ones, Hilton returns here to 19th-century Derbyshire (Mr. Fred)--with another authoritative period-puzzle for young police-detective Brunt, shrewd Sgt. Nadin (soon to retire), and their pompous, not-too-bright superior, Inspector Pickford. The case revolves around George Ludlam, now sleek and prosperous, who returns to his hometown--where, years ago, he worked as a child in one of the textile mills: a Dickensian hell of semi-starvation, overwork, and sadistic punishments (before the Child Labor Act). But nostalgia soon involves Ludlam in the fate of fellow-inmate Eva Hargreaves--now old, sick, and being ""cared for"" by Molly and Ben Bagguley, a villanious pair suspected of hastening their patients' demises. So, when Molly is bloodily murdered, Ludlam is arrested; the Inspector is determined to hang him; Brunt and Nadin are equally determined otherwise. And it's Nadin's clever use of a con-woman that will eventually get Ludlam off the hook. . . as the true killer is neatly nailed. Fine evocation of a grim era, solid characters, and an absorbing plot--complete with a tidy fillip at the fadeout.