At the Dying of the Year (Richard Nottingham Mysteries)
The year is 1733, and it has not been an easy one for Richard Nottingham, Constable of Leeds. Still recovering from a stab wound, on his first day back on the job he’s confronted with a hostile new mayor and the discovery of the bodies of three brutally murdered children. Nottingham and his trusty sidekicks believe they know the murderer’s identity – but the rich merchants of Leeds band together to protect one of their own.
There are several novels in this series, but this was my first; I think a better experience would result from reading them in order. Unlike many mysteries, this seems to spend a great deal of time on character relationships, especially familial units; it fleshes out the characters, but it also leaves less focus on the mystery plot. The novel is well-written, though there were a few slightly repetitive passages. An important character is dispensed with quite abruptly (and, for fans of the series, I suspect devastatingly) and a great deal of page space is spent on the effect of this on the main characters. The mystery element is resolved early on, and then it’s simply a matter of proof and justice served – and readers may find that justice summarily and disappointingly (though realistically) executed. The vast gulf between rich and poor, and the quality of justice for each, is a theme which will resonate with modern readers.