Nickson, Chris - 'Cold Cruel Winter'
COLD CRUEL WINTER is the second book from Chris Nickson, set in Leeds in the early 1700s, featuring Richard Nottingham, now the 'constable' of Leeds, in charge of policing the city. The cold cruel winter of the title refers to a particularly harsh winter, in which the main deaths have been from the cold rather than crime. Even Richard's own daughter Rose, who has only just married, is one of those recently perished from the harsh conditions. But then just as a thaw is on the horizon, a man's body is found on the outskirts of the city, with his throat cut. The lack of blood suggests he was murdered elsewhere, and bizarrely a large piece of skin has been removed from his back. The gruesome purpose of this is revealed shortly afterwards when Richard receives a book from the murderer, with the first of four stories, bound in human skin.
The murdered man is Sam Graves, a wool merchant, and Richard suspects that a possible motive could be revenge by one of Sam's ex-employees. The book that Richard receives from the murderer, taunting Richard to find him, confirms his suspicions. It's clear that the murderer wants to take revenge on the four men whom he deems responsible for current situation including the constable who arrested him. However, the original constable is now dead. Does this mean that the murderer intends to exact his revenge on Richard himself?
A novel then where we find out who the murderer is, and his motive early on, but this does not make him easy to catch, and gives Richard the difficult job of trying to protect potential targets with his small force of men, while worrying for his own safety and that of his family. Sedgwick, Richard's deputy, is on hand to help as is the one time cut-purse, Josh, both of whom featured in the last book, and again Josh proves his worth in helping Richard to try to track down the murderer.
As background to the main story, we follow Richard as he and his family deal with their sadness at the loss of Rose, and the particularly touching tale of Josh, in which we learn of his relationship with a young girl, who becomes pregnant, and the ensuing consequences. The background setting of an early Leeds, still in the throes of a bustling wool trade, and battling with the extreme cold helps to flesh out the story. A worthy follow-up to THE BROKEN TOKEN, and I look forward to more.
Read another review of COLD CRUEL WINTER.
Michelle Peckham, England