cover image The Hanging Psalm: A Simon Westow Mystery

The Hanging Psalm: A Simon Westow Mystery

Chris Nickson. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8831-0

Nickson (The Tin God) movingly depicts the plight of the lower classes in 1820 Leeds—and upper-class indifference to them—in this solid series launch. At age 30, Simon Westow, an orphan who grew up in a workhouse, has created a comfortable life for himself as a thief-taker, who recovers items stolen from the rich for a fee. An unusual and highly lucrative job comes from John Milner, a wealthy property owner, who hires Simon to recover his kidnapped daughter of marriageable age, Hannah. Hannah’s abductor demands £1,000 to return her unharmed, and Milner in turn offers Simon a fifth of that amount to retrieve her before the ransom is due. Simon starts by exploring a motive for the crime beyond financial gain, focusing on Arthur Standish, who hoped that Milner would agree to Hannah marrying Standish’s oldest son. The story line shifts in a surprising direction after Simon narrows his suspicions as to the kidnapper’s identity. Simon’s humble background makes him a welcome contrast to such aristocratic Regency sleuths as C.S. Harris’s Sebastian St. Cyr. Agent: Tina Betts, Andrew Mann Agency (U.K.). (Jan.)