The day after he is released from prison, in March 1895, Henry White is found stabbed to death at his home in Copper Street, Leeds. Local people are reluctant to speak to the police so DI Tom Harper knows that he will have a hard time trying to solve the case. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unprovoked incident, a young boy and girl find themselves victims of a serious acid attack. As the death toll rises, Harper knows that unless he gets a big break, the culprits will remain at large for ever.
On Copper Street is the fifth of Chris Nickson’s books to feature the main protagonist, Tom Harper, and is arguably his most complex to date, dealing with issues that wouldn’t look out of place in a contemporary crime novel. His descriptions of late-Victorian Leeds, however, place this book firmly in the past and it is this imagery that I love the most about this author’s books. Chris Nickson always succeeds in putting a clear picture in my mind of where the story is set, whether it be the police station, the public house of the crime scene. It is clear how much the author knows about the places he talks about in his books.
The mystery is a fascinating one and gives us a chance to see how most of Victorian police work came down to the legwork of the detectives. It was also interesting to see a new role being undertaken by Harper and poses a conundrum for future books – will he be content with being based, mainly, in the office, or will he find himself longing to be back out on the streets?
I have always loved the prominence the author gives to women in this series of books, and Harper’s wife, Annabelle, continues to be a strong character, largely due to her work with the Suffragettes. In an era where a lot of men controlled their wives’ lives, it is refreshing to see a fictional Victorian marriage where the couple appear to be equals.
Another excellent addition to the series.
With thanks to NetGalley and Severn House Publishers for the ARC.