Well, it’s not even the end of January yet and I’ve already broken my self-imposed rule about only reading books that were already on my TBR pile (unless they’re for book club). That resolution lasted for less than three weeks. Still, that’s actually longer than I thought I’d manage…
Still, if I was going to break that rule, I’m glad I did so for The Broken Token. This is the debut novel by Chris Nickson, and the first in a series of crime novels. The third novel in the series, The Constant Lovers, has just been published, and I heard from Leeds Book Club that there was a launch event at Leeds library in February, so I thought I’d have a read of an earlier book in the series to see if it was something that was likely to catch my interest. I really should have picked up one of Chris Nickson’s books before – he’s a bit of a favourite of Leeds Book Club’s, and has contributed several short stories to the group’s blog, which I had read and been quite impressed by.
The synopsis for The Broken Token grabbed me right away. Crime fiction, you say? Historical crime fiction? Set in a lovingly-researched 18th century Leeds, the city I work in (and that one half of my family originally hails from)? Yes please! The Broken Token follows Richard Nottingham, constable of Leeds, as he tries to solve a series of murders that have hit him a little too close to home. As a crime novel, it is incredibly successful – it kept me guessing right up until the end, and there were a few genuinely shocking twists along the way. However, it is in the portrayal of 18th century city life that the book really shines. If you know Leeds at all, the vivid portrait of the city that Nickson paints makes the book an absolute delight to read. Even if you don’t know the city, his realistic portrayal of the struggle for existence in an industrial city is absorbing, detailed and realistic.
The characters were also very well written – Nottingham and his deputy, Sedgwick, are both very likeable, relatable characters. I would be interested to see if some of the background characters, such as Nottingham’s family, are developed any further in the two further books in the series, as I thought they had potential to be a lot more interesting than they were. Which isn’t to say that they weren’t interesting – I would have just like to know a bit more about them.
I would highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical and/or crime fiction. Very much looking forward to reading the next two books in the series!