I’m super excited that today is my stop on Chris Nickson’s The Year of the Gun blog tour. I have to say, Lottie is one of the most compelling female WWII protagonists I have read in a good long while and I found it incredibly refreshing to read something set in post-blitz England that wasn’t London. The Year of the Gun is a must read for lovers of WWII and historical fiction, and it’s perfect too for those that enjoy police procedurals and crime fiction.
Title: The Year of the Gun: A WAPC Lottie Armstrong Mystery
Author: Chris Nickson
Publisher: Mystery Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2018
Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction
Themes: WWII, Crime, Romance
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
1944: 20 years after WPC Lottie Armstrong was dismissed from Leeds police for insubordination, she’s back, now a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Police Corps and driving for her old boss.
DCS McMillan is now head of Criminal Investigation Department, trying to keep order with a depleted force as crime grows. But when the body of a young woman is found among the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, things take a darker turn. The next night another young woman’s corpse is found. Both are in the service. Both have been shot by an American pistol. As World War II rages around them, can Lottie and McMillan stop a blackout killer with a taste for murder?
I loved this book, there is no question about it. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but it wasn’t long before I found myself so engrossed that I couldn’t put it down. I loved the attention to detail, the depth of the research, and the playful relationship between Lottie and McMillan. I’m not going to lie, at first I was a little put off with how complacent and dependent I thought Lottie was – BUT (and this is a big but) once I kicked my brain back into the period that I was reading everything fell into place and I realized just how well crafted Lottie’s character was and how she pushed the boundaries as a modern, professional, respected and independent woman.
I was completely infatuated with the Leeds setting. As someone who has never had the pleasure of visiting the city, I really appreciated the minutiae of the descriptions, especially since it never felt like they weighed the plot down. I really got a sense of time and place, and most definitely felt as though I was transported back to WWII with the remnants of bombings, covered headlights and blackout curtains, and the realities of rationing and food shortages.
The serial killer plot was wonderfully done as well. I can only imagine the kind of terror that a killer on the home front would have inspired, especially since there would have been such an incredible sense of vulnerability with so many of the men away. I found myself holding my breath every time Lottie checked the missing persons list in the morning, my gut clenching as she approached crime scenes, and actually cheering out loud when she and McMillan made bold moves to confront suspects. But more than anything, I really appreciated how Lottie connected with the female victims and survivors, as it highlighted the positive impact that women on the police force had.
The only thing I can’t really talk about too much is Lottie’s relationship with Ellison because I don’t want to spoil the ending. But, I love that she had doubts, I love that she didn’t give in, and I love that so much of this story was left open for another instalment in the series. Oddly enough, I loved how much I hated Ellison at times! As most of you know by now I really enjoy reading flawed characters, and he certainly met the criteria on this one, mostly because I can completely understand the dilemma of making the moral choice and following direct orders. Ugh, infuriating man! I need to know where this goes next…
Would I recommend this book? Hands down, yes! The characters are so believable it hurts, it’s evident that everything is well researched, and the plot is one that keeps you on your toes as well. And the best part is that even though The Year of the Gun is the second book in a series, is stands entirely on it’s own. I have no doubts that I will be seeking out Modern Crimes as I would love to read more of Lottie as a young woman, as well as Nickson’s medieval murder mysteries in the Chesterfield trilogy – I sense my TBR spiralling out of control!
Thank you all for popping by my stop on the blog tour, and do check out @ShazsBookBlog tomorrow for an exciting final instalment.
Chris Nickson has written since he was a boy growing up in Leeds, starting with a three-paragraph school essay telling a tale of bomb disposal when he was 11. That brought the revelation that he enjoyed telling stories, and then more stories, teenage poetry, and music, as both a bassist and then a singer-songwriter-guitarist.
Chris spent 30 years living in the US, playing in bands and writing. He’s made a living as a writer since 1994. Much of his work has been music journalism, combining the twin passions of music and writing, specialising in world and roots music. His reviews and features are published in print and online, notably with fRoots, Sing Out!, emusic.com, and allmusic.com. He’s also the author of The NPR Casual Listener’s Guide to World Music.
Chris has also published 28 other non-fiction books, most of them quickie biographies, and has had a pair of one act plays staged in Seattle. His short fiction has appeared in several small magazines, and in the anthology Criminal Tendencies. A collection of his short Leeds fiction appeared under the title, Leeds, The Biography.
He moved back to the UK in 2005. The Broken Token was published by Creme de la Crime in 2010. The second of the Leeds novels featuring Richard Nottingham appeared in hardback in May 2011 with the third and fourth (The Constant Lovers and Come the Fear) appearing in 2012. The fifth and six in the series (At the Dying of the Year and Fair and Tender Ladies) arrived in 2013. The seventh novel, Free From All Danger, will appear in October 2017, Cold Cruel Winter was named one of the Best Mysteries of the Year in 2011 by Library Journal, and the audio book of The Broken Token was one of the Independent on Sunday’s Audiobooks of 2012.
Emerald City and West City Blues, two books featuring Seattle music journalist Laura Benton, are available on ebook and audiobook.
The Crooked Spire is set in Chesterfield in 1361 and can be found in paperback and ebook, as can the sequel, The Saltergate Psalter. The final volume in the trilogy, The Holywell Dead, will appear in 2017.
A series set in Leeds in the 1890s features Detective Inspector Tom Harper. Gods of Gold is the first volume, followed by Two Bronze Pennies, Skin Like Silver, The Iron Water, and On Copper Street. The Tin God is scheduled for publication in May 2017.
Dark Briggate Blues is a 1950s noir, with enquiry agent Dan Markham and also taking place in Leeds, as does The New Eastgate Swing, the second volume to feature Markham.
Lottie Armstrong, one of the first policewomen in Leeds, was the heroine of Modern Crimes, set in 1924. She reappears 20 years later in The Year of the Gun.
Chris is also the author of Solid Air – The Life of John Martyn. This appeared as an ebook and print on demand in June 2011, along with John’s posthumous album and a tribute CD that features many major names.
Web site: https://chrisnickson.co.uk/
Many thanks to Chris Nickson for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, and to Abby Fairbrother-Slater @annebonnybooks for arranging this fabulous Blog Tour!