I’m a southwest London girl, who moved to Yorkshire at the age of nine and made it her home. That’s when my father got a promotion at work that resulted in him working in Leeds. We lived in the “posh” town along the railway line and, as I got older, Leeds was where I’d go on occasion for shopping. That was in the 1990s. The Hanging Psalm is set in 1820 and, while some of the street names remain the same, is set in an urban area far from the one I knew. This is an older, darker Leeds, without its glittering façade of respectable stores, restaurants, and bars. But still, I reached for The Hanging Psalm precisely because of its setting.
Chris Nickson has written well over two dozen novels, most set in the Yorkshire city, but this is the first one that I’ve read. He appears to specialize in crime fiction set in Leeds during various historical eras with a couple of different protagonists, and that’s what this is. Simon Westow is a thief-taker, finding and returning items stolen by the city’s rich. What starts as a quest to locate and safely return a businessman’s daughter turns into a cat and mouse game with an old adversary. Simon knows that not every transport to Australia is a one-way trip. Once they’ve served their sentence, criminals are free to return to England, and a particularly nasty piece of work has done just that. The kidnapping is simply a means to an end.
Can you enjoy a dark mystery with plenty of murder and other unpleasant goings-on? Because I enjoyed The Hanging Psalm. With each movement, the tension in the narrative built up like a crescendo as it reached toward its conclusion. I thought I knew what was going to happen regarding one of the characters, and it filled me with dread because I didn’t want it to happen. There were twists and times when it didn’t look so good for Simon and his assistant, Jane. Since this is the first Simon Westow book, I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Simon comes through this adventure. But will those around him?
Not everything about Simon and his companions is revealed in The Hanging Psalm. I was left with a couple of questions, especially about Jane. The next book in the series, The Hocus Girl, is due out at the end of September. If it’s a sequel, I’m hopeful my questions will be answered. If it’s simply book two in an ongoing series, then I’ll probably have more questions! In the meantime, I’m going to be renewing my library card so I can read some of Nickson’s other novels.
Disclaimer: I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not required to write a review, and the words above are my own.
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: 01 January 2019