The Dead On Leave
by Chris Nickson
Leeds, Autumn 1936.
During a British Union of Fascists rally, a body is found.
War veteran Detective Sergeant Urban Raven is tasked with finding the killer.
But with virtually no clues, no witnesses and no obvious motive, he has few leads to start the investigation.
Leeds has become a shadow of its former self. Once a bright, vibrant and progressive metropolis, it has all but ground to a halt since the Crash of ’29, the Depression and the ensuing descent into unemployment and poverty.
And there are political stirrings as the BUF vie with the Communist Party for public support.
Was the murder an act of vengeance?
Was the victim killed for his political beliefs?
Or was the killing part of a more sinister plan, a grisly smear campaign? And if so, which side, if either, is responsible?
Raven and his colleagues find themselves constantly hindered by red tape, politics and the press. But sometimes, if you want a result, you just have to do it your way…
This puzzler of a crime story comprises convincing characters, a clever plot and a window into the dark days of 1930s northern England, where so many had lost hope…
…the dead. On leave.
It’s 1936. Since the financial crash in 1929, Leeds, like much of the north of England, has been rendered grey by the depression, and Chris Nickson’s setting is a story that arrives in the mind as a black and white film.
Detective Sergeant Raven, with Leeds City Police, is on the trail of a killer. During the First World War, Raven was on the Western front when an explosion left half his body covered in burns. The damage left his face badly scarred and, despite being ‘repaired’ with surgery taking skin from his back, his face remains ‘scary’, no bad thing for a copper.
His relationship with his wife is broken, they are going through the motions, debt from the surgery not helping matters (back then soldiers had to pay for surgery). He works long hours and suspects his bored wife of having an affair. He follows her.
Meanwhile, members of the right wing and over-privileged are whipping people up, siding with Hitler in the aftermath of a march by Sir Oswald Mosely. The march left a man garrotted by an electrical flex, the case assigned to Raven. After a second man is found shot it becomes clear that both victims had links to the BUF.
One of the victims was also a means test man, an inspector whose job it was to investigate the unemployed and their family to make sure they don’t get any money they’re not entitled to.
With political unrest, financial hardship and the affects of war examined, it’s a meaty crime novel, with historical interest, modern relevance, and a well-crafted atmosphere. Tense and well told.
About the author:
Chris Nickson, author of the Richard Nottingham series, was born and raised in Leeds, England. A well-known music journalist and author, he’s written many celebrity biographies as well as being a frequent contributor to numerous music magazines.