The Scream of Sins 

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Book 6 of A Simon Westow Mystery
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Pub Date Mar 05 2024 | Archive Date Feb 29 2024

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Thief-taker Simon Westow uncovers an evil lurking in the underbelly of Leeds in this page-turning historical mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Charles Finch.

"A dark and complex mystery that contrasts genuine honor with the false tokens paraded by the upper classes" Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

Leeds, October 1824. Thief-taker Simon Westow's job seems straightforward. Captain Holcomb's maid, Sophie, has stolen important papers that could ruin the family's reputation, and he's desperate for their return. But the case very quickly takes a murderous turn, and it becomes clear the papers are hiding a host of sins . . .

During the search, Simon's assistant, Jane, hears a horrific tale: men are snatching young girls from small towns for use by the rich. Those who are unwanted are tossed on to the streets of Leeds to survive among the homeless. With the help of an unlikely, deadly new companion, Jane will do everything to discover who's responsible and make them pay.

Can Simon and Jane recover Holcomb's letters and get justice for the stolen girls? It becomes a battle that might result in them losing everything . . . including their lives.

Thief-taker Simon Westow uncovers an evil lurking in the underbelly of Leeds in this page-turning historical mystery, perfect for fans of Anne Perry and Charles Finch.

"A dark and complex mystery that...

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Average rating from 12 members

Featured Reviews

I received an ARC for this book for an author I have been wanting to read for a bit and I am so glad I finally did!

The atmospheric historic mystery takes place in Leeds. Simon the thief taker is assisted by an unusual group of helpers in solving the loss of some missing family papers for a client.

There is a lot of action and the characters are fun to read. There are allusions to other incidents in the characters’ lives which makes me want to read more of the books in the series.

Thank you to Netgalley and Severn House for an entertaining ARC from this author.

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The Scream of Sins by Chris Nickson is a short read, but an exceptional one. This historical mystery is centred on the investigations of Simon Westow, thief-taker in Regency Leeds

A maid has stolen papers that could destroy Captain Holcomb and his family and so he employs Simon Westow to recover them. However, the course of an investigation rarely runs smooth and when it takes a fatal twist, the papers reveal a litany of evil secrets of members of the upper echelons of Leeds soceity, who pay to use young girls who have been snatched from their home and trafficked, being discarded on the streets when there is no more use for them

One of the things I really like about this mystery, is that Simon Westow has a female assistant who is equaly important in the investigation, ,able to go places and investigate in areas where SImon cannot and this was reflective of the time, albeit for the most part unreported (I adore a mystery based in the Regency era)

The writing is authentic to the times, the atmosphere on point and the character building phenomenal. The grit in Chris Nicksons writing is a fantastic reflection of the times and I will absolutely be looking for more books from this writer

Thank you very much to Netgalley, the publisher Severn House and the Author Chris Nickson for this outstanding ARC. My review is left voluntarily and all opinions are my own

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Leeds in the North of England, October 1824. It’s 7am and Simon Westow, thief taker, waits amid the silent eerie fog, the cobbles damp and slick beneath his feet, his back leant against a soot laden wall by the chill River Aire. He’s been summoned to meet someone unknown as yet, but waits to see who will emerge through the fog.

Simon is a thief-taker - he recovers stolen items and returns them to their rightful owner for a fee. He received a note the previous evening asking for his help and to meet at this spot, but the letter was unsigned. Nevertheless, Simon is early, giving him a chance to check for anyone lying in wait, he’s also well armed, just in case this is someone with ill intentions.

The letter writer turns out to be former military officer Captain Holcomb. It appears that a bundle of sensitive letters and documents pertaining to his father had gone missing from a drawer overnight - added to this, his maid had vanished overnight too.

Simon is also made aware by his tough and streetwise assistant Jane, of some very young girls being snatched from the streets of Leeds, resulting in Simon and Jane being drawn into the dark underbelly of Leeds, into the dark forbidding courts, derelict buildings and alleyways - scary places where the sunlight never penetrates, and where all manner of criminal activities occur, but young girls being taken is something that both Simon and Jane are absolutely determined to make the perpetrators pay for.

Though the topic was dark, it was another great read from this accomplished author. His research, as always, is impeccable, and accurately captures a time and place in history when crimes were solved without the aid of forensic science. This was a suspenseful storyline, with rich and vibrant characters, including new character Sally, a homeless child who is the one to bring attention to the fact that young girls were being abducted. Chris Nickson is my absolute go to author when it comes to historical fiction, and if you haven’t read any of his books you’re really missing out.

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I think this the best in this series and I couldn't put it down as I was fascinated by the historical background, the social remarks, and glad to catch up with the characters
A well plotted, twisty and gripping historical thriller I thoroughly enjoyed.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Dark and vengeful!

Wow! Chris Nickson once again transports us back to 1824 Leeds. Atmospheric and stark reality color every page.
Simon Westow (the thief-taker) has a new client, an ex cavalry officer, and son of one of Leeds most notorious magistrates, who’s proving to be evasive and high handed. He wants Simon to find some stolen papers of his dead father’s but will give him no clues. It turns out others are on the trail and the dead bodies begin to stack up.
Something dark is happening in the lanes and alleyways of Leeds.
Jane has befriended a young girl, Sally, in whom she sees herself at that age. Sally feels protective of the children who live on the streets. In particular one small girl, Emma, who doesn’t quite seem like the others. Jane and Sally discover she and her sister were grabbed from a park when they hid from her governess. Emma was released because she was too old. Harriet, all of four, was deemed suitable.
Both Simon and Porter the Constable are shocked. They will become more so. Power and money are at work.
Sally comes more into the picture as Jane decides to only help when Simon really needs her. Her relationship with Simon has not been the same since he intervened in her planned revenge. Jane hasn’t really come to terms with Simon’s actions. She’s become more distant from the family.
Nickson’s portrayal of life on the streets for the forgotten and lost children is harsh and unforgiving.
Street justice is paid out for some of the child snatchers.
This latest novel in the Simon Westow arc has endings for some and new promise for others.
I was captured by events as they unfolded, horrified on many levels, and constantly admired Nickson’s ability to capture the terror of situations his characters faced and the driving search for justice and revenge they sought.
A challenging topic brought into the light, revealed by the power of the very talented Nickson’s pen.

A Severn House ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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Another great read from this author. His research accurately captures a time and place in history with authentic descriptions and the character's are clever and finely drawn. It was a short read on quite a dark topic which is still around today ie human trafficking. Which sadly shows we haven't come as far as we think from regency times. I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I thank NetGalley and Severn House for an advance reader copy of “The Scream of Sins.” All opinions and comments are my own.

It’s 1824 in the dark and dreary streets of Leeds. Thief-taker Simon Westow, six books in, as good as he is at his job, knows he must ever be vigilant. Hired by a wealthy man to retrieve a stolen packet of historical family papers, Simon finds that the real story hides a sordid tale (a note for readers -- eventually involving children), in “The Scream of Sins.”

The City of Leeds is as usual brought to life, every trash-chocked alley, every soot-laden, creaking dwelling laid bare to scrutiny. Always, a character in itself. And its inhabitants; be prepared for the sadness of the stories that Jane – reluctantly working for Simon again – encounters among the ragamuffin children she deals with as she searches for information. Jane, and a new character that’s being introduced, are caught up in this story as the pages fly along, and you will be as enraged as they are by what’s found out.

The case gets personally complicated, for Simon. And for Jane, there’s personal danger, in a gruesome way that many may find unsettling. Eventually, as there must always be an end, the truth of it all comes out. In an Author’s Note Chris Nickson mentions that this is a very dark book. And it is, no doubt about it. But author Nickson takes a sordid topic and uses it to remind us that as horrific as the truth can be, there are fictional people like Simon Westow and his contemporaries to see that justice is dealt to the perpetrators.

The plotting is impeccable, the characters clever, complicated, and finely drawn, and the book offers up a skillful reveal by an author experienced at his craft. “The Scream of Sins” is not an easy book to read, but readers will enjoy it just the same.

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Leeds 1824

An atmospheric somewhat dark mystery with ties to what is actually going on in the world today.
This is the first book I have read from this author but will not be the last! I need to catch up on this series.

Thief taker, Simon is applied named as he finds and takes back items that have been stolen. This one leads him to an underworld that is unexpected, but with the help of Jane, who can go places he cannot, the journey is on..


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Scream of Sins is the sixth of the Simon Westow series. Simon, his wife Rosie, and their partner Jane are on the hunt for a thief, but their client won't give them enough details to do the job. In the course of their investigation, they turn up someone even more evil than a document thief. Someone is kidnapping little girls and horribly misusing them.

This is a very dark story, and should probably come with trigger warnings for some. The characters in the series continue to develop nicely, and a new street urchin joining the Westow team promises to introduce an interesting new back story.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Leeds 1824. Simon Westow is hired to find some missing documents of Major Holcombe. Suspicion fall on a maid that went missing at the same time. But events accelerate as people go missing, and bodies are discovered. Has Westow unearthed a possible network of child abductions and abuse.
An interesting historical mystery of a dark subject, with its cast of likeable characters. Another good addition to this enjoyable series.
An ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Leeds, Autumn 1824. Simon Westow is engaged by a retired military man, Captain Holcomb, to recover some papers which have been stolen from his house. They concern the career of his father, a notoriously hard-line magistrate.
Westow takes the job, but is concerned when Holcomb refuses to reveal what might be in the missing papers, thus preventing the thief taker from narrowing down a list of suspects. As is often the case in this excellent series, what begins as case of simple theft turns much darker when murder raises its viler and misshapen head.

Jane, Westow's sometime assistant, has taken a step back from the work as, under the kind attention of Catherine Shields, she is learning that there is a world outside the dark streets she used to inhabit. The lure of books and education is markedly different from the law of the knife, and a life spent lurking in shadowy alleys. Nevertheless, she agrees to come back to help Westow with his latest case, which has turned sour. When Westow, suspecting there is more to the case than meets the eye, refuses to continue looking for the missing documents, Holcomb threatens to sue him and ruin his reputation.

More or less by accident, Westow and Jane have uncovered a dreadful series of crimes which may connected to the Holcomb documents. Young girls - and it seems the  younger the better - have been abducted for the pleasure of certain wealth and powerful 'gentlemen'. Jane, galvanised by her own bitter memories of being sexually abused by her father, meets another youngster from the streets, Sally.

Sally is a mirror image of Jane in her younger days - street-smart, unafraid of violence, and an expert at wielding a viciously honed knife. Jane hesitates in recruiting the child to a way of life she wishes to move away from, but the men involved in the child abuse must be brought down, and Sally's apparent innocence is a powerful weapon.

As ever in Nickson's Leeds novels, whether they be these, the Victorian era Tom Harper stories, or those set in the 1940s and 50s, the city itself is a potent force in the narrative. The contrast between the grinding poverty of the underclass - barely surviving in their insanitary slums - and the growing wealth of the merchants and factory owners could not be starker. The paradox is not just a human one. The River Aire is the artery which keeps the city's heart beating, but as it flows past the mills and factories, it is coloured by the poison they produce. Yet, at Kirkstall, where it passes the stately ruins of the Abbey it is still - at least in the 1820s - a pure stream home to trout and grayling. Just an hour's walk from Westow's beat, there are moors, larks high above, and air unsullied by sulphur and the smoke of foundry furnaces.

The scourge of paedophilia is not something regularly used as subject matter in crime fiction, perhaps because it is - and this is my personal view - if not the worst of all crimes, then at least as bad as murder.  Yes, the victims that survive may still live and breathe, but their innocence has been ripped away and, in its place, has been implanted a mental and spiritual tumour for which there is no treatment. Two little girls are rescued by Westow, Jane and Sally and are restored to their parents, but what living nightmares await them in the years to come we will never know.

I have come to admire Nickson's passion for his city and its history, and his skill at making characters live and breathe is second to none, but in this powerful and haunting novel he reminds us that we are only ever a couple of steps from the abyss.

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