I received a free copy of this book to review from NetGalley, on behalf of the publisher.
In Chris Nickson’s Fair and Tender Ladies, three members of the Leeds constabulary try to find a murderer in 1734. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to my expectations. The structure was messy as the narrative got passed back and forth between Richard Nottingham, Rob Lister, and John Sedgwick so rapidly that you have to pay careful attention to the next bit of dialog to figure out who the narrator is. The exposition and descriptions are sketchy to non-existent. The plot is thin. The characters are unfocused. The ending is rushed. And there are historical errors that annoyed me.
The book opens with the accidental death of a visitor to Leeds. Then a man shows up looking for his sister and also ends up dead. Then the sister appears to drown herself in the River Aire. Meanwhile, someone is harassing Nottingham’s daughter at the school she runs for the poor girls in the neighborhood. Fortunately for Constable Nottingham and his men, there were witnesses that just need to be mildly threatened to give up their secrets. Because this is 1734, there are no rules governing police conduct and Nottingham can do a lot of underhanded things and do a bit of his own harassing.
I was a little interested by the pre-police police presented here, but the historic details didn’t add up for me. The earliest organized police force that I know about in England was Henry and John Fielding’s Bow Street Runners. I know there were constables and sheriffs and beadles before Peel’s Metropolitan Police, but I doubt they were as organized as Nickson presents. There were other details that hit me wrong, but it’s not worth enumerating them.
I don’t enjoy writing bad book reviews, but I honestly didn’t like this book.