cover image H The Leaden Heart

H The Leaden Heart

Chris Nickson. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8879-2

Nickson’s superlative seventh whodunit featuring Leeds police superintendent Tom Harper (after 2018’s The Tin God) effortlessly blends an intriguing mystery with a portrait of the plight of the lower classes in that city in 1899. Insp. Billy Reed is bereft when his shop owner brother, Charlie, poisons himself after a new landlord buys the building housing the shop and doubles the rent. When Billy finds that Charlie was making regular payments to a notorious extortionist, Tom does some digging himself, only to run into a stone wall when he tries to ascertain the new landlord’s identity. Worse follows. Charlie’s widow, Hester, is threatened and then murdered in her home by someone who took pains to make the death seem natural. Meanwhile, Tom’s wife, Annabelle, one of the city’s few female Poor Law Guardians, looks into the drowning of two small girls by their dissolute father, who threw them into a canal after a workhouse refused to take them in. Thoughtful characterizations and a plausible, heartrending plot add up to a winner. Nickson stands in the front rank of historical mystery authors. Agent: Tina Betts, Andrew Mann Agency (U.K.). (July)