On Copper Street

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Bethany Latham

This fifth Tom Harper mystery sees significant changes in the life of the detective inspector. Small-time crook Henry White is released from prison without naming his partner in crime; he’s later stabbed to death. As Harper struggles to find the murderer as well as solve a secondary mystery involving the disfigurement of two children, the deaths pile up, including some who are dear to Harper. Nickson has a penchant for killing off recurring (occasionally beloved) characters; so far readers in this series have been spared. But as Harper thinks to himself: “death wouldn’t leave him alone.”

Like every Harper novel (and, incidentally, every book Nickson has penned), this is an engaging read. What’s on offer is a solid Victorian police procedural with a likeable protagonist, a strong storyline, and a vibrant cast of secondary characters who illustrate different aspects of the Leeds setting (e.g., grime and crime of the lower classes; the middle-class moving up) and the social issues it engenders (suffragism, workers’ rights). All are woven naturally into the mystery storyline. In the craft of the historical police procedural, Nickson remains one of the most adept practitioners. Read him.