The Resurrection Men
Thomas Potts is the reluctant, despised, badly paid Parish Constable in 1826 Redditch, centre of needle manufacturing in the Midlands. He has a termagant for a mother and the flirtatious barmaid Amy for a sweetheart (he hopes). When fresh graves are robbed, finished needles are stolen from the warehouses and the rambunctious Needle Pointers threaten to strike, Thomas’s problems seem overwhelming. But although Tom may be gormless, he is intelligent and he has a theory. Employing coal dust or chalk, he can distinguish individual finger marks found at crime scenes. It is a ridiculous idea, scorned by all, but Tom believes these marks will help him solve the needle burglaries at least. Local gossip has it that a ruthless gang called the Rippling Boys is behind all these crimes. Can Tom identify the crooks and even better, catch them?
Tom is an unusually appealing hero. Timid, too tall, weak, put upon by most of Redditch, he doggedly carries out his duties despite being scared half to death most of the time. The novel has an excellent period feel. The Needle District, its workers and their hard life are brought to colourful life.
Redditch and the surrounding landscape are described so well that we can practically follow Tom from factory to tavern to the grim lock-up where he and his ghastly mother live.
Sara Fraser (nom de plume for an ex marine-commando, no less) has cleverly left a villain on the loose and a romance dangling, so with luck we shall see another very enjoyable Tom Potts novel soon.