Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book from the publisher, the words and opinions below are my own.
Have you ever read a book and wanted to know MORE? If you’re like me then you probably have, but I don’t think I’ve anticipated a next book more eagerly than when I waited for The Hocus Girl. To quickly recap, in The Hanging Psalm, readers are introduced to thief-taker, Simon Westow, and his assistant Jane. A thief-taker is someone who hunts down stolen items and returns them to their rightful owners for a fee. Simon, Jane, his wife and his sons, live in gritty 19th century Leeds. It’s the time of the Industrial Revolution, and great change is taking place. New machines are being invented, and man’s place in the world is shifting. Leeds is full of mills and mines, and the first commercially viable steam engine has been built on the city’s outskirts.
The Hocus Girl carries three distinct storylines which occasionally intertwine with one another. Primarily, Simon must discover whether his former mentor is guilty of treason because he dares to express different ideas. What is treason anyway? Is it merely expressing thoughts against the government and “the way of things,” or is it acting against said government and leadership forces? His investigation will eventually take him into the world of industrial espionage. Another plot point revolves around Simon’s desire to see his twin sons get the formal education he never got. And then there’s Jane. She was easily the most intriguing character of The Hanging Psalm and, while we get a bit more of her story here, she’s still a mystery. She’s also more dangerous than previously presumed.
A fascinating aspect of The Hocus Girl – and, indeed, Nickson’s other books – is how the author brings alive the city and daily life for its inhabitants. Nickson examines everything from religion to manufacturing, including education, justice, and social life. As someone who used to live near Leeds, I was struck by how much smaller the city seemed every instance that a character walked into the countryside. I also found it fascinating that some of the aspects of the main plot were based on actual events.
The ending felt like the ending of the series, which was disappointing because of the length of Nickson’s other series. The great news is that there are at least two more books to come. Not only does Nickson write brilliant stories with endings that leave the reader breathless, I’m certain there are still secrets about Jane left to uncover.
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication Date: 01 January 2020