Well, here we are, squarely in a new year. That means it’s time to look ahead, especially as I’m putting the final touches to what I hope will become the eighth Tom Harper novel – if the publisher wants to put it out, of course.
Before any of that, however, the seventh Tom Harper book will be published at the end of March. Called The Leaden Heart, it’s set in 1899 in a Leeds that’s changing and pushing its way towards the 20th century. Here’s a very short extract:
Harper had just finished putting together the duty roster for August when the telephone rang, the line crackling harshly enough to hurt his bad ear.
‘Tom? It’s Billy. Billy Reed.’
Reed had been a good friend once, the sergeant to Harper’s inspector, until they fell out. Then he’d transferred to the fire brigade and been promoted. Two years ago he’d taken a job in Whitby, in charge of police there.
Annabelle and Elizabeth, Reed’s wife, were still close, exchanging regular letters. She ran a tea shop now, close to Whitby Market. Harper and his family had visited the Christmas before last. It had been a pleasant few days, but not the way it had once been. That would never return.
‘How are you?’
‘I’m fine,’ Reed answered quickly. ‘I hate to ask, but I could use a favour.’
‘My brother died, so I have to come back to Leeds for the funeral. I think you met him once.’
Long ago. Charlie? He thought he vaguely remembered the name. Thin and pale, with mousy hair and a waxed moustache.
‘I’m sorry, Billy.’
‘We were never that close, but…’
Of course. It was family. Harper understood.
‘Do you need somewhere to stay? Is Elizabeth coming with you?’
‘If you don’t mind. He lived in Harehills and the Victoria’s close. It’ll only be for a few days, if that’s all right. Elizabeth is run off her feet at the tea room. Whitby’s full of holidaymakers and the tea room is packed every day. Besides, she never really knew him.’
They had an empty attic room at the pub. It wasn’t much, but the bed was comfortable.
‘Of course. You know you’ll be welcome, as long as you need,’ Harper said. ‘When are you arriving?’
‘This afternoon. The telegram only came an hour ago.’
‘We’ll expect you.’
He lowered the receiver, picked it up again and asked the operator for the Victoria. They’d had a telephone installed at the beginning of the year. Between his rank and Annabelle’s post as Guardian, he hadn’t been able to fight the idea any longer.
She picked up on the third ring, listening as he explained.
‘I’ll air it out for him.’
You can pre-order the book already. The cheapest price seems to be here, with free postage in the UK, although the company seems to have mixed reviews. Here is slightly more expensive, but also has free shipping and is highly-rated.
I also seem to be quite busy with events this year, and maybe more to add to that list. I’m not entirely certain how that’s happened, but they’ll all be fun, especially the two with my good friend Candace Robb and editors from the publisher that issues both our books. It all begins next Friday, January 18, with a talk at Kirkstall Abbey – a place with a very deep history of its own – on the Battle of Holbeck Moor, the incident which kicks off The Dead on Leave. My notes are already prepared…
There will be one more book to come this year, out at the end of September. It’s the sequel to The Hanging Psalm, and it’ll be called The Hocus Girl. Here’s a taste…
The man uncurled his fist to show the pocket watch. Candlelight reflected and shimmered on the gold.
‘Open it up,’ Simon Westow said.
Inside the cover, an inscription: From Martha to Walter, my loving husband.
‘See?’ the man said. ‘The real thing, that is. Proper gold. Keeps good time and-’
The knife at his throat silenced him.
‘And it was stolen three days ago,’ Simon said. He held the blade steady, stretching the man’s skin without breaking it. ‘Where’s the rest?’ With a gentle touch, he lifted the watch out of the man’s palm and slipped it into his pocket. ‘Well?’
‘Don’t know.’ The man gasped the words. His head was pushed back against the wall, neck exposed. ‘I bought it from Robby Barstow.’
‘When?’ A little more pressure, enough to bring a single drop of warm blood.
The man’s eyes were wide, pleading, the whites showing. It was the truth. He was too terrified to lie.
‘Then you’d best tell Robby I’m coming for him.’
‘What-’ His eyes were wide, pleading.
‘-about the watch?’
‘Yes.’ He breathed out the word, trying not to move at all.
‘Consider it a bad investment.’
Outside, he blinked in the light. A coach rumbled past on the Head Row, the driver trying to make good time on his way to Skipton.
Simon would hunt for Barstow later. The watch was the important item; Walter Haigh was desperate to have it returned, a gift from his late wife. He’d promised a fine reward.
That was what a thief-taker did. Find what had been stolen and return it for a fee.
2019…maybe it’s going to be a good year for us all.