Free From All Danger

October, 1736. Lured out of retirement to serve as Constable once again, Richard Nottingham finds Leeds very different to the place he remembers. Many newcomers have been attracted by the town’s growing wealth – but although the faces have changed, the crimes remain the same, as Nottingham discovers when a body is found floating in the River Aire, its throat cut.

What has changed is the fear that pervades the town. With more bodies emerging and witnesses too frightened to talk, Nottingham realizes he’s dealing with a new kind of criminal, someone with no respect for anything or anyone. Someone who believes he’s beyond the law; someone willing to brutally destroy anyone who opposes him. To stop him, Nottingham will need to call in old favours, rely on the trusted friendships he’s built up over the years, and seek help from some very unlikely sources.

A glorious review from the Fully Booked blog. Read it all here:

“If you have any appreciation of good storytelling, you will enjoy this book. You will, however, need fingerless gloves, warm socks and a good woollen vest, preferably woven in Yorkshire. This November in Leeds is cold. It is a cold that gnaws at men’s bones, chills their souls, and has them heading for the hearths of home, or the fireside of a crowded inn. The cobbles glint with frost, and the mist from the rivers and becks conceals a multitude of dark deeds. Free From All Danger is historical crime fiction right out of the top drawer.”

A starred review from Publishers Weekly:

“Set in 1736 Leeds, Nickson’s superior seventh Richard Nottingham novel (after 2013’s Fair and Tender Ladies) finds the retired constable in a somber mood on a visit to the graves of his wife and older daughter. Richard’s spirits revive when the mayor asks him to serve in his old position on an interim basis after the unexpected death of the current constable. Richard’s return to duty soon causes tensions with the deputy constable, Rob Lister, his protégé and his daughter Emily’s lover. His immediate challenge is a series of seemingly unrelated murders that places him in the hot seat with the city’s leaders, who fear that the violence will undermine public confidence in them and harm business. When several local pimps disappear, Richard realizes that the players in the Leeds underworld have changed since he left his position. Meanwhile, his nascent efforts to rebuild his family add emotional depth. Nickson is at the top of his game in this fairly clued whodunit.”

Called out of retirement by the city fathers of Leeds to serve again as Constable, Richard Nottingham doesn’t feel up to the job. He’s old and tired now in 1736, and most of those he held dear are already dead, but duty beckons him. He returns to the job just as a vicious murder spree begins, which soon has the entire city clamoring for an arrest. One of the only people he can depend on is Rob Lister, the young Deputy Constable, who is also common-law husband to Nottingham’s daughter. Together the two policemen hunt the perpetrator through the brothels, pubs, and fog-shrouded streets of Leeds, and along the way Nottingham does what he can to ease the suffering of those dispossessed by circumstances and tragedy.

The novel has some peripheral shortcomings, but they are not fatal. Scenes are very brief, which gives a jumpy feel to the story. A subplot doesn’t deliver as much substance as might be expected. But all these are far outweighed by outstanding characterization—Nottingham is a very human and endearing character—and an intricate and satisfying plot, as well as excellent depiction of the setting.