Review: To The Dark, by Chris Nickson

To The Dark book coverOverview

Winter is about to take a chilling twist…

Thief-taker Simon Westow is drawn into a deadly puzzle when the melting snow reveals a dark secret in this gripping historical mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Charles Finch.

Leeds, 1822. The city is in the grip of winter, but the chill deepens for thief-taker Simon Westow and his young assistant, Jane, when the body of Laurence Poole, a petty local thief, emerges from the melting snow by the river at Flay Cross Mill.

A coded notebook found in Laurence’s room mentions Charlie Harker, the most notorious fence in Leeds who’s now running for his life, and the mysterious words: To the dark. What was Laurence hiding that caused his death? Simon’s hunt for the truth pits him against some dangerous, powerful enemies who’ll happily kill him in a heartbeat – if they can.


Disclaimer: Although I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, the opinions below are my own.

It’s the second half of the Regency Era in the United Kingdom. King George IV has held the throne in his own right for a little over two years. The Napoleonic Wars are over, and the French Emperor is dead. So is Jane Austen, whose books have given us a romantic and elegant view of the times which has been copied multiple times since then. But Chris Nickson is not Jane Austen, and his Leeds is a long way from Pemberley.

To The Dark is the third in Nickson’s Simon Westow series. Westow is not a northern version of Fitzwilliam Darcy, not by a long shot. He’s done well, certainly, for a lad that grew up in a workhouse. He has a wife and two sons, a solid roof over his head, and food on the table. But his choice of work isn’t welcomed by all and makes him a target for others. Simon Westow is a thief-taker. In the days before an established police force, a victim of theft would hire members of this profession to seek out their stolen property and return it. Westow has established a reputation for getting the job done, and has gathered an extensive variety of contacts, on both sides of the law.

The first book in this series had me hooked, and Nickson hasn’t let me down since. His descriptions of life in Leeds fill the senses. One hears the mills and the people conducting their business and smells the stench of the smoke and the rubbish piled high in the streets and closes. I even heard the Yorkshire voices of the characters as they interacted with one another. (They sounded like people I once knew in the area.) The tension increases throughout the narrative. Nickson has a liking for chapter ending cliffhangers. The B story regarding Westow’s assistant, Jane, weaves expertly with the main plotline. At the end, I got the impression that neither’s life will be the same. Too much happens for them not to change.

When it comes to Yorkshire and history, it’s easy to bring the city of York to mind. When I lived in Yorkshire, Leeds was a city for shopping. But the descriptions of Leeds in To The Dark are making me rethink. Whenever I can finally return, I now want to explore Nickson’s city from Swinegate to The Headrow. I want to wander by the river, hear the gentle splash of the water, and imagine what might lurk beneath the surface. I want to walk out to Woodhouse Moor, just as Westow does with his boys, and I want to stand in Green Dragon Yard and visualize Jane as she fights her demons and other, more corporeal, things. Perhaps, once our world emerges from the great pandemic, Leeds should contemplate walking tours of Chris Nickson’s Leeds. I’d sign up in a heartbeat.



Product Information

Publisher: Severn House Publishers

Publication Date: 02 March 2021

Book Information


The Regency Wasn’t All You Think – by Chris Nickson (guest post on another review site)

author headshotAuthor Information

Chris Nickson, author of the Richard Nottingham series, was born and raised in Leeds, England. A well-known music journalist and author, he’s written many celebrity biographies as well as being a frequent contributor to numerous music magazines.

Chris Nickson’s Website


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