Leeds, 1733. Three children are found dead in a disused bell pit, their bodies battered and bruised, each of them stabbed through the heart.
Fear, suspicion and violence tear at the city as Richard Nottingham, John Sedgwick and Rob Lister hunt a ruthless child-killer, a monster who preys on street children, those with no one to care about them and none to report them missing.
The Constable is certain he knows who’s behind the murders – but how can he prove it when the wealthy and powerful in Leeds protect their own? Digging down to find the truth brings him up against the new mayor, a dangerous enemy to make But things are about to get a great deal worse. Nottingham’s efforts to bring the killer to justice brings a blow that strikes right at his heart.
The first American review, from Booklist:
“Richard Nottingham, constable of Leeds, is back in another superior historical mystery steeped in suspense and complicated by the misguided social mores of early eighteenth-century England. With a ruthless child killer on the loose, Richard, seriously debilitated by a wound he sustained in his last outing (Come the Fear), desperate to unmask the demon preying on vulnerable street urchins. Zeroing in on the culprit, he is stonewalled as the more wealthy and privileged citizens close ranks. Though his tenacity exacts a huge personal toll, he and his deputies are committed to seeing that justice is done. This grim tale is harshly relentless in its honest depiction of crime, retribution, and the collective sins of society.”
From Publishers Weekly (starred review):
“British author Nickson’s stellar fifth 18th-century whodunit finds Richard Nottingham, Constable of the City of Leeds, returned to work after the life-threatening wound he received in the previous book, 2012’s Come the Fear. Nottingham worries that he won’t hold the post much longer, given the limitations imposed by his injury as well as the antipathy shown him by the mayor, but he soon has worse things to worry about. The discovery of the abused corpses of three children sets the constable and his men on a desperate search for the killer, who has probably claimed other lives. A description of the suspect, a man known only as Gabriel, leads Nottingham to one of the city’s most powerful men. Nickson has never been better in merging the private life of his hero with a quixotic quest for justice in a community where the privileged look out for their own, no matter what.”
From Kirkus Reviews (edited to miss out spoilers):
“The Constable of Leeds investigates the most horrifying case of his long career. There’s no safety net in 1733 Leeds. The poor scramble for every crumb of food and die with no hope of help, while the wealthy mostly ignore their plight. So it’s no surprise to Richard Nottingham that when the bodies of three young street children are found tortured, raped and murdered, the mayor offers a reward that adds more trouble than help and is furious when clues indicate that a wealthy man may be the killer. Nottingham has barely recovered from a knifing, and his assistants John Sedgwick and Rob Lister are putting in long hours to help him in what seems a hopeless case. [Nottingham] is willing to give up everything he worked for to bring the guilty to justice.
Despite the relative dearth of mystery, this case for Nottingham (Come the Fear, 2012, etc.) is a wicked good combination of history and social commentary.”