The Iron Water

Written by Chris Nickson
Review by Bethany Latham

The latest in the Inspector Tom Harper series is another expertly written Victorian police procedural. An interesting scrap of history – the 1893 test of a torpedo on Waterloo Lake in Leeds – is turned into a murder mystery when the resulting explosion raises a body sunk in the lake. When a severed leg is dredged from the River Aire and another body discovered during an arson investigation, Harper and his trusty sergeant, Ash, must navigate the dangerous territory of Leeds’ rival gang bosses to find the perpetrators.

Like all of Nickson’s mysteries, the procedural aspects are leavened by the detective’s personal life, and the interactions between Harper and those he cares about are manifestly appealing. The atmosphere is spot-on; Nickson knows Leeds, which we see in all its bustle and dirt, having just been incorporated as an official “city,” as well as the varied social strata that make it up and the issues faced by that society. All characters, primary and secondary, are realistically constructed. Start with the first in this series and read them all; then go back and read Nickson’s equally excellent Richard Nottingham series – same city, different time period. In this genre, it doesn’t get much better than Nickson.