Gods of Gold by Chris Nickson is a historical mystery, first in a new police procedural series set in late Victorian-period Leeds, England and featuring Inspector Tom Harper (available December 1, 2014).
Chris Nickson’s interest in Leeds and its history is plain: he has a new novel coming out in January 2015 that is set there in 1954 (Dark Briggate Blues), and his Richard Nottingham mystery series is set in the same city back in the 1730s.
From the very first page, I was enthralled with the smooth integration of historical detail into the plot. Nickson depicts a wide range of social classes and professions with just as much, or perhaps more, local detail as a contemporary police procedural would include, creating an immersive effect without slowing the pace. His attention to detail means the novel feels grittily realistic, just as a procedural should be.
I would have enjoyed the book simply as a historical novel, even had the mystery not been present, because of the fascinating backdrop Nickson chose for it. 1890 was a time of intensifying disputes between laborers and their employers, and the Leeds gas-workers strike on which Nickson focuses sent angry mobs raging though the city. As gas has recently grown cheaper, the organized gas companies announce they will cut the workers’ hours for the summer and then pay them lower wages when the weather grows colder. When the workers strike, the gas companies hire strikebreakers, nicknamed “blacklegs,” and the workers’ union retaliates.