The Hanging Psalm: A Regency Mystery Set in Leeds (A Simon Westow Mystery)
This novel debuts a new series, returning again to Nickson’s ubiquitous Leeds. This time it’s the Georgian period; instead of an official investigator (like Tom Harper or Richard Nottingham), we have a thief-taker, Simon Westow. Shaped by the hardship of a childhood in the workhouse, Westow now recovers stolen property – in this case a wealthy factory owner’s daughter. A villain from Westow’s past resurfaces, endangering his life and that of his young family.
As will be expected from Nickson, characterization is strong, and it’s the main driver of this procedural mystery. Westow has his own infallible moral compass and structured pursuit of justice; wildcards such as sidekick Jane (think deadly ninja waif) add color. There are multiple action scenes and a cast of subsidiary characters, doubtless introduced to be revisited in future novels. Leeds’ social echelons, especially its underworld, and the unfortunate consequences of industrialization will be familiar to readers of the Harper mysteries. In fact, this debut feels familiar in most respects (despite the different time periods, I pictured Westow stopping in at Sheepscar to shoot the breeze with Harper), so fans of Nickson’s earlier series will want to add this latest to their to-read piles.