Modern Crimes: A WPC Lottie Armstrong Mystery

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Edward James

On one level this is a short police/crime novel in which the police crack the case and the criminals get their deserts. However, there are three distinctive features.

Firstly, the police who break the case are not detectives, but two police constables ‘on the beat’ who outsmart their superiors, not always to their personal advantage. Secondly, this is 1924, and the two constables are policewomen, novelties only grudgingly accepted by many of their colleagues. Finally, this is not London but a northern provincial city, Leeds. Scotland Yard gets only a passing mention.

I have a feeling that the main purpose of the book is to tell us about everyday policing in a provincial city in the aftermath of the First World War, with a focus on the emerging role of policewomen—no ‘glass ceiling’ for them, just a brick wall. Chris Nickson clearly loves Leeds, and he gives us a lot of topographical detail, as well as dialogue which catches perfectly the cadences of Yorkshire English without resorting to unusual spellings and speech marks. A well-crafted work with an unexpected ending.