cover image The Hocus Girl: A Simon Westow Mystery

The Hocus Girl: A Simon Westow Mystery

Chris Nickson. Severn, $28.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7278-8935-5

Set in 1822 Leeds, British author Nickson’s outstanding sequel to 2019’s The Hanging Psalm finds thief-taker Simon Westow helping Emily Ashton and her brother, Davey Ashton, who rescued Simon from the streets in the previous book. When Davey is arrested on sedition charges, Emily fears Davey could be transported to Australia for life under a new law enacted out of the British government’s fear of domestic unrest. An ambitious local magistrate accuses Davey of seven instances of incitement, including one for which Simon knows Davey is innocent. As the investigator looks into what lies behind the accusations, aided by his capable and deadly young assistant, Jane, the inquiry turns violent. Simon also lands an affluent client, a timber merchant who was fleeced of his valuables by a “hocus girl,” who drugged his drink, and who becomes more of a threat when Jane learns that the mystery girl has identified Jane’s most vital secrets. The clever plot, which doesn’t center on a whodunit, is based on real events. Historical mysteries don’t get much better than this. Agent: Tina Betts, Andrew Mann Agency (U.K.). (Jan.)