Nickson, Chris - 'Dark Briggate Blues'
The club had no alcohol licence, so it was tea, coffee or orange squash, and uncomfortable chairs. Somewhere only for the jazz faithful. And when the sound took flight it was worthwhile. But not tonight.
Enquiry agent Dan Markham crosses the path of a powerful and frightening man, David Carter, who is set on building a business empire in Leeds. Freddie Hart had refused to sell him his car dealership so Carter made an example of him. Now he wants Dan Markham to persuade Mrs Hart to sell. In a chilling move, Carter makes it clear that he knows details about Markham's past. He also tells him that if he goes to the police, or fails to get Mrs Hart to sell - Markham's missing gun, which killed Hart - would be found. Markham wonders if he is out of his depth. Should he leave Leeds altogether? He decides to stay and fight, first of all by getting his gun back. But this decision will cost him dear and Markham comes to realise that Carter's power and vicious ruthlessness is on a scale that he has not come across before.
Chris Nickson is a prolific writer with more than one historical crime series under his belt and a raft of celebrity biographies. He has a Leeds upbringing and a music journalist background, so it should be no surprise that DARK BRIGGATE BLUES is set in the 1950s and features Leeds based, jazz-loving, private eye, Dan Markham - a man with a beautiful artist girlfriend and past training in military intelligence. In a Q&A session on the publisher's site, Nickson pays tribute to American noir detective fiction and to a British 1960s-70s TV series Public Eye - about "a down-at-heel enquiry agent". Ultimately, he says, the inspiration for the book "came down to wondering what 1950s English provincial noir might be like".
Initially I found Nickson's way of establishing of period details a bit laboured, referencing a lot of car makes and models for instance. But this self-conscious detailing eases up and gradually he allows the story to paint the period. (Nickson is not alone in religiously pegging a period setting to brand details so I was glad he stopped. Being no spring chicken, this kind of styling tends to alert my "anachronism alarm" - which is another distraction in itself.) My only other quibble is that Carter's motivation seemed not to marry with the scale of his tricks, reach and viciousness - but such is the life of crime, villains and victims. Altogether DARK BRIGGATE BLUES is smoothly written, involving and has plenty of suspense and good characterisation. With a second book in preparation, I wish "Dan Markham" well in establishing his noir investigative career.
Lynn Harvey, England
last updated 12/04/2015 15:18