The second in the Richard Nottingham series; Cold Cruel Winter follows the continuing caseload and life of the Chief Constable of Leeds.
This book is set during the brutally cold winter of 1732. The ground has frozen solid, disease is rife, food is scarce and – as in The Broken Token – the distinctions between the haves and have nots can determine whether a person lives or dies.
Richard Nottingham has been working as diligently as ever, keeping law and order in Leeds, despite his family being hit by a terrible tragedy – one which causes tensions within his marriage and tests his faith in God.
His deputy – John Sedgewick – finds a body so horrifically murdered that it becomes clear to the whole Constabulary that the city is being plagued by a killer with a clear and violent agenda. It will take all of the teams limited resources and complete dedication to stop this murderer before he fulfills his grisly purpose, and to keep his ghastly crime from becoming public knowledge.
As though that weren’t enough; two brothers – sons of a wealthy and influential merchant – have progressed from raising hell to homicide. Despite the clear bias offered to the wealthy by the wealthy; Nottingham is determined to see them pay for their crimes; pitting him against the Mayor, the merchants and running the risk of losing his position altogether.
Once again, Chris Nickson presents a Leeds that – though not idyllic – feels vivid and real. The desperation and poverty of the time is described in scenes that feel authentic and make a person wince; whilst simultaneously moving closer to the fire.
Cold Cruel Winter is a far more brutal book than its predecessor, containing some really disturbing moments, though the violence never feels gratuitous. As before; the research of the time period is meticulous. Discovering (after I’d finished the book) that some of the more gruesome aspects of the crime is based on a historically accurate practice was both unexpected and chilling. Nickson also works in sparse examples of colloquial language and phrasing into his lively dialogue which further adds to the atmosphere.
This remains a character driven series – the lives of the Chief Constable, his men and their families are the point of the story. While the majority of the characters will be familiar from the first book in the series; they are not static – there are unexpected changes as each one grow. The crimes are seen as cutting into their lives; rather than dictating the course of them. The ‘B’ crime in particularly draw the focus to the disparate social conditions and how these impact on the Constable’s men.
The ‘A’ crime is grotesque and gripping. Allowing the primary antagonist to occupy the opening chapter of the book creates a creepy but sustaining bond with the reader – you can’t help but be fascinated by him; though his actions are always beyond the pale.
Although this book would be very successful as a stand alone thriller; I think that it was particularly effective read within the series.
I love that it’s so different stylistically to The Broken Token.
I love that it ends in such a realistic way – not necessarily happy, but satisfactory.
I can’t wait to read the next one!