I might be sitting on a beach in Mexico, but today I have the pleasure in taking part in the blog tour for Chris Nickson’s latest novel The Tin God. Pulling together a good old-fashion police procedural and a heavy dose of women’s suffrage this baby is sure to please lover’s of historical fiction and women’s fiction alike!
For those that read and share this post, please accept my thanks in advance – I will be sure to share the book love when I return to the land of snow and unpredictable weather. ❤
2018 marks the centenary of women receiving the Parliamentary vote. Some women, at least. But well before that time, many women of all classes could take part in local elections. Not only casting their vote, but standing for office as members of the School Board or Poor Law Guardians.
In The Tin God, the seventh Tom Harper novel, that’s exactly what Annabelle Harper does. Already a speaker for the Leeds Women’s Suffrage Society, she’s one of seven females selected to run for election as a Poor Law Guardian.
It’s progress, but not always well received. Several of the Leeds newspapers keep running editorials, urging their readers to support the male candidates. But one man goes even further. He believes that women have no place in politics, and he’ll do everything to stop them. His campaign begins with anonymous letters, and quickly escalates to threats, bombs, and murder. The only clues are fragments of folk songs that he leaves at the scene.
For Detective Superintendent Tom Harper, the political has become terrifyingly personal.
‘It all began when a friend suggested that Annabelle should run for office,’ Nickson says. ‘With that, a lightbulb seemed to click on. In an age where female politicians are regularly abused online, where an MP can be shot in broad daylight, where the harassment of women by men stands as an everyday occurrence, this felt like a book that I needed to write. What’s happening now is nothing new. The march towards votes for women really began in 1832. We need to celebrate every victory they fought to have.’
The Tin God will be published by Severn House on March 29, 2018. It will be launched on May 5, as part of The Vote Before The Vote exhibition at Leeds Central Library.
I absolutely adored this book, right from the very first chapter. I loved the setting, I loved the characters, and I loved the gritty feel of Victorian police work. But more than anything, I was in love with the plucky and persistent Annabelle Harper, and with all the women like her who moved mountains with regards to women’s rights today.
I mean sure, Tom Harper was working a pretty intense bombing/ murder case with a seriously twisted unsub that kept leaving these strange little clues. And sure, there was this whole sub-story wrapped up in traditional folk songs that had me listening to hours and hours of music online. And sure, there was this whole other story about smuggling and booze-running, but the show was definitely stollen by one, little, pub-owning woman who had the nerve to run in an election. That’s all I can say without dropping too many spoilers, but seriously, The Tin God was absolutely amazing!
And let’s not forget to talk about the fashion my friends. So much of period fiction is driven by the details, and Nickson did not disappoint. So much detail was paid to the clothing, especially Annabelle’s dresses, that I could close my eyes and envision every scene without effort. From the thickness of the wool to the cut of one’s lace, the details were absolutely complete. And this attention to detail extended to all areas of the book, including the landscape and architecture of the communities in which the narrative took place. I could almost breathe the heavy industrial air and feel the grit on the bricks, and for that I loved it even more.
I really enjoyed Nickson’s decision to incorporate the suffrage movement into the Harper’s lives, rather than just the victims. What was even better, was that Nickson portrayed not only a woman seeking to create a better life for her daughter, but also the men who actively supported these women and their fight. I did question, a little, whether or not this was a realistic element of Tom’s character, but it really did make for enjoyable reading so I was happy to see it! It was also refreshing to the number of businesses owned and run by women, and how vital they were to society in a time when most sought to sweep their agency under the rug.
What I found disturbingly interesting though, was that even though this novel was set in 1897, so much of the commentary on social attitudes still rings true today. It’s frightening how one resistor to change can cause so much fear in a community, even when that community is openly change. The fear mongering, the panic, and the social atmosphere all rang true to current events, and I think that really helped to maker this feel real.
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I loved the Leeds and the Whitby storylines, both of which were clearly well researched, and I really enjoyed the diversity found within the characters. This might be a quick read, but it certainly packs a punch, and it is sure to please lovers of historical fiction, police procedurals, and those interested in the history of women’s suffrage alike.
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 Abby at Anne Bonny Books for organizing this tour, and to Tim Hicks for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.