Synopsis: Leeds, England. October, 1897. Superintendent Harper is proud of his wife Annabelle. She’s one of seven women selected to stand for election as a Poor Law Guardian. But even as the campaign begins, Annabelle and the other female candidates start to receive anonymous letters from someone who believes a woman’s place lies firmly in the home.
The threats escalate into outright violence when an explosion rips through the church hall where Annabelle is due to hold a meeting – with fatal consequences. The only piece of evidence Harper has is a scrap of paper left at the scene containing a fragment from an old folk song. But what is its significance?
As polling day approaches and the attacks increase in menace and intensity, Harper knows he’s in a race against time to uncover the culprit before more deaths follow. With the lives of his wife and daughter at risk, the political becomes cruelly personal …
My review: The Tom Harper novels are one of my favourite detective series and there’s always something within the stories that make me think. In 2018 in the UK we’re celebrating 100 years of (the first of certain) women being allowed to vote however that didn’t happen overnight and the Suffragette movement was preceded by 60 years of women like Tom’s wife Annabelle trying to make the country a better one with more rights for women. In the 21st century women are still looking for equality (despite the vote) and whether it’s the rise in social media commentating on such or because it really is on the increase the violence is ever present 120 years on from the setting of this book. The more things change the more things stay the same and with violence that’s not a good thing.
Annabelle Harper has long been my favourite character within the series. I have loved seeing her journey and I’m so pleased she’s centre stage this time. I’ve seen her go from publican to Harper’s wife (and still the landlady/owner) to becoming a Suffragette and in this book running along with other women for the chance to become a Poor Law Guardian. And cue the violence….
Someone out there does not like the idea of women having power and ‘messing in politics’. We have attacks, bombs, kidnap, fires and even murder and Tom and his team of detectives need to find the culprit before someone else dies.
You can really feel the tension in this book as Harper desperately tries to protect his wife and child. There’s a timeline to this as the election looms. The writing as always is excellent and for me, it’s such a page turner. Although this is book 6, you don’t need to have read the others first although you should for continuity. It works well enough as a stand alone story as well.
We have a sub-story as Billy Reid has now moved to Whitby and in his first days in his new job looks to break up a smuggling ring. This gave a nice contrast to the manic times over in Leeds. And finally this one has music! The story is littered throughout (I won’t say why) with lyrics from folks songs. For me this brought back lots of happy memories of my grandparents and great grandmother as they used to have lots of old songs sheets and piano music as I was growing up that we sung along to on family days.
So much to say about this book and all good. Another excellent read
Thanks to Chris Nickson, Severn House and netgalley for the ARC