Skin Like Silver by Chris Nickson 5/5*
The third intriguing historical mystery to feature Detective Inspector Tom Harper
Leeds, England. October, 1891. An unclaimed parcel at the Central Post Office is discovered to contain the decomposing body of a baby boy. It’s a gruesome case for DI Tom Harper. Then a fire during the night destroys half the railway station. The next day a woman’s body is found in the rubble. But Catherine Carr didn’t die in the blaze: she’d been stabbed to death – and Harper has to find her killer.
The estranged wife of a wealthy industrialist, Catherine had been involved with the Leeds Suffragist Society, demanding votes for women, the same organization for which Harper’s wife Annabelle has just become a speaker. Were Catherine’s politics the cause of her death? Or is the husband she abandoned behind it? But when her brother escapes from the asylum and steals a shotgun, Harper has to race to find the answers.
Skin like silver is the third novel in the Tom Haper series set in Victorian Leeds. The novel opens up in 1891 with Detective inspector Tom Harper tackling a tough case of a missing woman and a dead baby. We learn that Billy Reed (Tom’s former partner) has moved on to the fire service following the aftermath of their last case. Tom harper is called out to a raging fire at the railway station, which leaves a fireman dead. In the wreckage of the fire a young woman’s body is recovered and it soon becomes apparent that neither the fire nor smoke inhalation was the cause of death. With only his constable Ash to assist, Inspector Hill insists that Billy reed be seconded back to the police service to assist Tom Harper with the case.
With Tom & Billy reunited the case makes fast progress. We learn that the victim Catherine Carr has strong links to the Suffrage & socialist causes making a stir in Leeds. This novel has strong theme of ‘votes for women’ and it is refreshing to read a novel so detailed about the early factual women whom started the movement. The novel is also littered with northern dialogue, making this novel not only authentic but a thoroughly enjoyable read. As the novel develops we met real life suffragette Isabelle Ford, a local wealthy Quaker. We also meet Catherine’s husband, known to be a drunkard and abusive to his wife.
Tom’s wife Annabelle plays a huge part in all the novels so far in the series. But in this one she really excels herself as a character. Annabelle herself has been quite taken up with the women’s votes movement. The novel also reflects on what the vote would mean to so many women in the city of Leeds. Although Leeds is a large community, we learn that it is one of great diversity and quite a divide between those who have & those who do not. A community that also knows what’s going on in each other’s lives.
The case progresses and we go on a journey through the lifestyle of the Victorian era. The struggle of the women, often having to resort to stealing or prostitution just to get by. The evidence leads the detectives all the way to the West Yorkshire Pauper & Lunatic Asylum. When working girls are attacked, Tom has to race to find the culprit for all the local unrest. With local budding MP’s desperate for power & influence keen to block the women’s vote and the sinful working girls that line the streets. This novel is packed full of characters. The plot build and build to a violent ending, one where the true evil of personal vendettas is laid bare. 5*
*If I had to pick themes for this author to write, this novel would be it. It is without a doubt my favourite by the author so far!