Dark Briggate Blues

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Mary Seeley

The year is 1954, and Leeds-based enquiry agent, Dan Markham, is about to become embroiled in some very dark goings-on.

Having worked for British military intelligence in Berlin during his National Service, jazz-loving Dan now makes ends meet mainly with divorce cases, and when the glamorous Joanna Hart sashays into his office (in pure noir style!) to ask him to provide evidence of her husband’s adultery, it seems like any other assignment. But then Freddie Hart is killed, and Dan finds himself facing up to a ruthless man with friends in very high places for whom intimidation, extortion and murder are second nature, and against whom he will have to use all the skills (some not strictly legal) from his Berlin days, if he is to protect both Jo and his art-teacher girlfriend, Carla. We know “whodunnit” very quickly, but will Dan be able to bring such a man to justice?

This is a tense thriller, all the more disturbing for the ordinariness of its setting among the smoky, rain-slicked streets of a northern industrial city. Nickson has captured the minutiae of the mid-20th century perfectly – with illegal drinking dens, Kardomah coffee houses and the Craven A cigarettes that Dan smokes. Dan, himself, is a bit of a new man (he can whip up a nice omelette with a touch of exotic garlic) and Carla, strong-willed and independent, is a great match for him. We also have a well-drawn villain (who thinks he’s untouchable) and a very nasty selection of thugs and “bent coppers” who are around to do his bidding. Thoroughly recommended.