cover image The Blood Covenant

The Blood Covenant

Chris Nickson. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-5048-5

Set in Leeds, England, in 1823, Nickson’s stellar fourth mystery featuring thief-taker Simon Westlow (after 2020’s To the Dark) finds Simon, who’s recuperating from a devastating illness, not in the best shape to embark on a crusade. But he does so after 10-year-old Peter Hardy and eight-year-old Jacob Easby are killed by the brutal overseer at the mill where they worked, a tragedy that revives Simon’s memories of his own oppressive experiences in a workhouse. When Simon’s testimony to an investigating commission about the torture he endured as a child laborer doesn’t yield results, he resolves to bring those responsible for the boys’ deaths to justice, despite the risk of taking on the powerful status quo. Meanwhile, during a walk, Simon comes across the body of a clerk found in the river with his throat slit and right hand severed. The tension rises as the subsequent inquiry pits Simon against a dangerous adversary. Nickson does a superb job using the grim living and working conditions for the city’s poor as a backdrop for a memorable and affecting plot. James Ellroy fans will be enthralled. Agent: Tina Betts, Andrew Mann (U.K.). (Mar.)