Hocus Girl (A Simon Westow mystery)

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Viviane Crystal

In Leeds in 1822, Simon Westow is a “thief-taker,” someone who restores stolen goods to their original owners. Now his dear friend, Davey Ashton, has been charged with sedition for printing radical ideas against the government. He is one of many so charged, as the government is spying on its citizens illegally. Davey and his sister Emily had once saved Simon, who is now repaying this sacred debt. Simon’s skilled assistant is Jane, a young girl who was abused as a child and still cuts herself as a result of the memories. She is a hard-hearted character who is determined to finish whatever task she is assigned by Simon and others.

A timber merchant has had a personal ring stolen by a “hocus girl,” and Jane’s search forms the second part of the mystery plot. A third part focuses on some greedy individuals’ attempts to steal the plans of coal companies building steam engine railroad cars for carrying heavy coal products. This novel offers a complex storyline that demonstrates Simon’s determination to provide justice to the suffering while evil men greedily suck up as much money and power as they can. Simon is a good-hearted, intelligent sleuth who is very concerned about domestic turmoil at this time in English history. This is an excellent historical mystery, the second in the Simon Westow series. Readers will enjoy it and look forward to additional books.