Written by Andrew Martin

Review written by Stephen Thornley

An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.

RRP: £14.99
Released: July 6 2017

Andrew Martin is best known for his Jim Stringer Steam Detective series set in England in the Edwardian Era. This time around there are no railways, no Victorian engineering and no police force as Mr Martin takes us back a further hundred years to the early years of the Industrial Revolution in Georgian England.

We are in York in 1799 for this tale of detection and adventure. York in Georgian times is like other large towns & cities in Britain, growing fast with new industrial processes driving the building of many factories (some powered by coal). However improvements in output haven't led to better working conditions and there remains poverty. The Enclosure of the land is in full swing at this time with many forced to leave the rural life and look for work in the towns.

The narration is brought to us by a series of statements & letters submitted by a lawyer to a magistrate detailing the events surrounding a certain Mr Fletcher Rigge’s investigations into the death of an artist named Matthew Harvey. The pace and storyline are held together very cleverly by using extracts from Mr Rigge’s diary which seamlessly bind the statements into a creative plot with interesting detail helping to bring the period and town to life.

Mr Rigge is from landed gentry, but unfortunately for him his father gambled away the estate, committed suicide and left his son almost penniless. In trying to maintain some of the estate’s housing, Rigge has finds himself committed to The Castle (the debtor’s prison) for his unpaid debts.

It is winter. The town is cold and snow covered. The streets are dark, slippery and often dangerous places. Men of the Watch are the only aid to the law abiding citizens against pick pockets, thieves and murderers. Matthew Harvey was a well-known artist who produced silhouettes of the great and good in society. He was found in his own house stabbed to death with his own scissors.

Harvey’s son Captain Robin Harvey is an agent for the local mine owners wanting to sell their coal. He has a certain reputation about the town, not a flattering one, and lives down a particularly notorious street. However for Rigge this man could be his saviour, as Harvey makes an offer to pay off the debt in return for Rigge identifying the last six people who sat for his father. The only help are the six copy silhouettes kept by the artist that Rigge must identify them from; and if possible interview them for one of them is surely the killer. He soon discovers that there were seven not six and the seventh was Captain Robert Harvey.

Rigge now embarks on a search among the thoroughfares and alleys of York looking for clues to the identities of the six. In his search he comes across a violent young actor, a bitter failed writer, a lady in society, a wealthy widow and her two young children all of whom could have killed the artist - as could his own son.

This is a grand tale of murder and intrigue in the dark, cold & smoke-filled streets and alleys of York. Mr Martin has a smooth easy style that keeps the reader entertained and hooked. The descriptive language brings the filthy, cold slushy streets of 18th Century York to life and together with the quirky characters helps build a colourful portrayal of Georgian lifestyles.

I wonder if this is the beginning of a new series of books from Martin, and if so I look forward to my next encounter with Mr Fletcher Rigge.

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