cover image A Dark Steel Death

A Dark Steel Death

Chris Nickson. Severn, $29.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5047-8

Nickson plausibly and effectively ages his characters in his superior 10th mystery featuring Leeds copper Tom Harper (after 2021’s Brass Lives). Harper’s first outing was set in 1890, when the policeman was just a detective inspector, but by this book, mostly set in 1917, he’s the deputy chief constable. Harper has his hands full with multiple crimes that threaten to panic his city during WWI. At the end of 1916, an explosion at a munitions factory killed dozens, leading to suspicion that a saboteur had successfully disrupted England’s war effort. That theory as to the explosion’s cause gains strength when a night watchman finds kindling and a box of matches at a depot storing clothing intended for the troops, just after hearing someone run off. Harper does everything he can with limited manpower to avert further attempts at sabotage. But despite his efforts, a soldier guarding a military hospital is murdered, shot through the heart by a sniper, an apparently connected crime. Nickson does his usual superb job of evoking the period and balancing his lead’s professional challenges with personal ones. This entry reinforces his place in the front rank of historical mystery authors. Agent: Tina Betts, Andrew Mann (U.K.). (Sept.)