The Hanging Psalm by Chris Nickson

1820, Leeds, and Simon Westow, a thief-taker, is on the case. His trade is finding stolen goods and returning them. It is a first for him to be looking for a stolen person though. Hannah Milner, the daughter of John Milner, a rich businessman has been kidnapped and Simon is hired to find her before the ransom needs to be paid. But there is more at stake than he realises.

Accompanied by his assistant, the young girl Jane, a girl with a dark past, Simon soon realises that a sinister figure is behind the kidnapping, an enemy from Simon’s past – a man hell-bent on revenge on Simon. Nine years in Australia is a long time to bear a grudge…

I’m really torn on this one. It’s a very well-written book, with Georgian Leeds brought to life in a truly evocative manner. Not since the London of Paul Doherty’s Brother Athelstan, or Michael Jecks’ Devon has the past been brought so stunningly to life. Simon Westow, his family and Jane are a fully realised set of characters and I’d really like to read more of them.

But… at the end of the day, this is a revenge thriller, not really a mystery. Yes, there is an element of who is helping the villain achieve his ends, but not enough for the book to be billed a mystery. So on that aspect, it fell short for me.

At the end of the day, the problem is one of dodgy advertising – just call it a thriller, don’t call it a mystery. It’s an impressive book, just not the sort of story I was looking for. Recommended for fans of historical crime, with the above caveat.

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