Modern Crimes

Lottie cover1924 Six years after the Great War and Leeds still isn’t back on its feet. Work is scarce, poverty is everywhere and crime is spreading. The city has its first policewoman, though, and Lottie Armstrong is eager to prove herself in this man’s world. But with her duties confined to looking after women and children, the force doesn’t want a woman with initiative. Then Lottie has to search for a missing girl, and her life changes.

Suddenly CID needs a woman’s touch to find answers, and Lottie is a proper copper for the first time, following a trail that takes her from high society to the Royal Hotel, where men and women gather, the ones who live in the shadows because their love is a sin.

that leads to the underbelly of the city and to murder.

As Lottie uncovers a plot involving high level corruption, the truth is slowly laid bare. And she learns that if you show you’re as clever as a man, there’s always a price to pay.

Modern crimes, timeless tragedy.

From Northern Living:

By July 1922 the first two policewomen in Leeds (appointed 1918 and 1920) had both resigned, within months of each other. The official history of Leeds Police doesn’t mention a reason. Those pioneering women were the inspiration for Lottie Armstrong, the heroine of Chris Nickson’s new novel, Modern Crimes.  ‘It’s 1924, women over 30 have the vote, but the powers of these policewomen are very limited,’ Nickson says. ‘Lottie wants to be able to do more, and the disappearance of a girl from a home for unwed mothers gives her the chance.’ Lottie ends up working on the case with Detective Sergeant McMillan, and it quickly turns to murder. Finding the truth takes her from the poverty of the back streets and the hangover for the Great War to the front parlours of the rich, where the language of money speaks loudly. And part of the trail leads her to the Royal Hotel, one of the homes of the gay and lesbian community in Leeds, a place where secrets are kept and some revealed. ‘The Royal Hotel on Lower Briggate was one of the centres for what was essentially a community in the shadows then,’ Nickson explains. ‘There was one bar for men, another for women, and there were other pubs like the Mitre where people would gather. And that part of Leeds history is well worth commemorating.’ While Modern Crimes are committed in the novel, the impulses behind them – greed, fear, hate – show that the basic human impulses remain the same. As Lottie shows herself to be a superb detective, the initiative a woman shows to find answers doesn’t sit well with those in charge. But how far do they believe is too far for a policewoman? Bringing alive Leeds in the 1920s, the mix of vibrancy, glamour, fashion and wealth, next to the squalor and deprivation that hadn’t changed since Victorian times, Modern Crimes immerses the reader in the past – and into Lottie’s battle to solve the mystery. – See more at: http://www.northernliving.co.uk/index.php/business/317-modern-crimes.html#sthash.HgtwLYMr.dpuf

From the Yorkshire Post

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A very handsome review of Modern Crimes from the Crime Fiction Lover blog: “No author has used the city of Leeds as a backdrop for crime stories so profoundly as Chris Nickson. From Richard Nottingham‘s cases set in the 1730s through to Dan Markham in the 1950s, his love and knowledge of the Yorkshire metropolis have truly shone through”…”You really get a feel for both the time period and location in Modern Crimes. Chris Nickson is very good at painting a picture of the class divide, especially when it comes to the living conditions of the poor. What’s more, he creates characters you actually care about.”

And even retired coppers seem to like Modern Crimes:

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 From the Northern Crime blog:

It is 1924. Lottie Armstrong is in her twenties, married and plucky. She is a woman clearly out of her time. She enlists in the local police force in Leeds, as a WPC. As she is a woman, her main tasks are very restricted. She is on hand to deal with fallen women, school children playing truant and the odd shoplifter. She is paired with WPC Cathy Taylor. The two women are trailblazers, being the first policewomen in Leeds. There are plenty of people ready to offer an opinion on how ‘unbecoming’ it is as a job. Lottie is a pioneer, looking for opportunities and a chance to do the work the male officers take for granted.

We follow Lottie, as she becomes involved in the case of a missing girl and a murder. This is obviously out of her remit. Lottie is keen and capable, with an eye for detail. She has the capacity to get witnesses to talk and a passion for the job. This gets noticed by her superiors. Yet time and time again, she is sidelined or punished for acting to the best of her abilities.

This was masses of fun to read;  with its incisive historical detail, colourful Leeds references and strong female characters. Lottie Armstrong is simply wonderful. I want to be Lottie. She is a force to be reckoned with. She would have made the perfect police officer in 2016. In 1924, she has no chance against the prevailing prejudice. I am so glad that Chris Nickson has decided to give us more Lottie, set in the 1940s. We need to know what happens next to our heroine.

A very lovely review from the Historical Novel Society:

On one level this is a short police/crime novel in which the police crack the case and the criminals get their deserts. However, there are three distinctive features.

Firstly, the police who break the case are not detectives, but two police constables ‘on the beat’ who outsmart their superiors, not always to their personal advantage. Secondly, this is 1924, and the two constables are policewomen, novelties only grudgingly accepted by many of their colleagues. Finally, this is not London but a northern provincial city, Leeds. Scotland Yard gets only a passing mention.

I have a feeling that the main purpose of the book is to tell us about everyday policing in a provincial city in the aftermath of the First World War, with a focus on the emerging role of policewomen—no ‘glass ceiling’ for them, just a brick wall. Chris Nickson clearly loves Leeds, and he gives us a lot of topographical detail, as well as dialogue which catches perfectly the cadences of Yorkshire English without resorting to unusual spellings and speech marks. A well-crafted work with an unexpected ending.

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