Molten City (A Tom Harper Mystery)

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In this police procedural, the eighth in the series, set in 1908 Leeds, Superintendent Tom Harper is confronted by two almost insoluble problems:  How does he prepare his police force for Prime Minister Asquith’s upcoming visit in the face of anticipated violent demonstrations by the poor, unemployed and suffragettes?  And how does he solve cold cases involving a child-snatching ring where the individuals involved were both coppers and the wealthy of Leeds?

As he begins preparations for Asquith’s appearance with great trepidation, Harper receives an anonymous letter from a dying woman; she says that the disappearance 14 years before of five-year-old Andrew Sharp was a theft.  As he and his men investigate why the Sharp file is so thin and no legitimate investigation had ever been undertaken when child-snatching cases were always a top priority, they must peel away layers of buried history.

At the same time, Harper’s wife and 16-year-old daughter, both involved in the suffrage movement, force him to deal with the possibility that there could be riots and arrests when Asquith visits.

This is my first Harper mystery, and I had no problem immediately connecting with Tom, his family, his police colleagues, and Leeds, the molten city of the title.  The plots and characters, even the peripheral ones, are exceptionally well developed, and Nickson’s dialogue and narrative capture the reader’s imagination from the first page.  I’m going back now to read Nickson’s first seven Harper mysteries!