Pickpockets, pimps, and prostitutes: All in a day’s work for the city constable – until work moves too close to home…. When Richard Nottingham, Constable of Leeds, discovers his former housemaid murdered in a particularly sickening manner, his professional and personal lives move perilously close. Circumstances seem to conspire against him, and more murders follow. Soon the city fathers cast doubt on his capability, and he is forced to seek help from an unsavoury source. Not only does the murder investigation keep running into brick walls, and family problems offer an unwelcome distraction; he can’t even track down a thief who has been a thorn in his side for months. When answers start to emerge, Nottingham gets more than he bargains for….
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A man and a woman are found murdered in Leeds. The man is a non-conformist preacher brought in by a local merchant. The woman is a local prostitute who was once a main in the house of Richard Nottingham, the city Constable. Which was the intended victim?
This is the beginning of an unexpectedly interesting story about life in Leeds England at a time when there was one law for the rich and one for the poor. Richard Nottingham who has had experience of both living rich and extremely poor stands between them, a servant to the masters of the city-- the wealthy merchants and aristocrats-- and both a threat and a protector to the counterfeiters, cutpurses and prostitutes that make up the lowest rank of those trying to get by.
The historical detail feels authentic and by keeping his eye on the street life rather than the high life, the author conveys a sense of the life for most people in the early 18th century without romanticizing it.
I figured the murderer out early in the book but found myself reading more for the story of the Constable and his Deputy than the mystery.
I also enjoyed the narrator. His voice enhanced the story without descending into heavy local accents.
My Review The Broken Token is the first book in the Richard Nottingham Mystery Series, Richard Nottingham is The Constable of Leeds, the year is 1731. There's a lot on this mans plate right now, apart from the never ending thieving, and drunken brawling, the officials have been on his back to find and arrest a "cut purse", a cunning and successful thief who had relieved many a gent of his money filled purse. Then came the first of the murders!
The first few years of Richard Nottinghams life were spent living in a grand house, until his father discovered his wife had taken a lover. Convinced that Richard was not his son, he threw them both out onto the streets. In those days, married women forfeited everything to their husbands, she was left with nothing. Richard learned to scrounge for rotten left over food, and he learned to steal, they were forced to sleep wherever they could find shelter or on the streets. Such was the lot of the desperately poor. Somehow Richard survived to adulthood and found work as one of the constables men, eventually becoming the Constable of Leeds. This was his background, and was what made him appreciate his modest home, a warm and comfortable haven for his wife and two daughters. All this was now at risk, the new Mayor and the aldermen were putting him under great pressure to bring the murderer to justice.
When Richard was called to the scene of the first murders it was to find the bodies of a preacher and a prostitute. The preacher had been invited to Leeds by a man of good social standing, and was an important enough person to cause the mayor to threaten Richard with the loss of his position unless the murderer was quickly caught. The girl, however, was of little importance, just another whore, but Richard recognised her. Pamela, she was his Pamela, who had come into his household as a thirteen year old girl to help Richards' wife Mary with her daughters. The family had loved her, she had left them to marry. Pamela always wore a half token on a blue ribbon about her neck, a gift from Richard, it had once belonged to his mother. The token was gone, all that remained was the torn blue ribbon, so began the hunt for the murderer, Richard was driven not just by duty to his job, but a need to avenge the death of their dear Pamela. First though comes the sad task of breaking the news of Pamelas' murder to his family and to Pamelas' grandmother.
The story of Richards investigations leads us into a world populated with wonderfully described characters, his warm loving wife Mary, his daughters, Rose the sensible one, nineteen years old and about to be married. Emily, a hot headed thirteen year old with aspirations beyond her position in life, Queen Bee they called her. Richards deputy is poor John Sedgewick, not for him are the comforts of a loving wife, he is married to a cold hearted shrew but she is the mother of his beloved infant son. Her coldness drives John to work long hours. There's Brogan, the coroner, who moves through the mud attempting to keep his shiny shoes clean, and with his lavender scented rag held over his nose protecting his delicate sensibilities. Then there is Mr. Worthy the pimp, there's an enigmatic quality to Mr. Worthy, I couldn't quite fathom his motivation, yes, interesting!
When you find a book that gives so much more than just a story it's like a surprise gift. We are given a trip back in time, to days when people lived in conditions unimaginable to us in these times of plenty. It certainly provided food for thought and, surprisingly, reawakened an interest in social history. I thoroughly enjoyed this first in the series and look forward to more.
Narrator Not for nothing is Steven Pacey a well known and respected narrator, he is such a gifted reader. Yes, he has all those formal skills of the good narrator, but he also has that indefineable something. Regular listeners to audiobooks will know just what I mean, it's a little bit of magic in the voice or in the telling that projects the images of the characters and places straight into the listeners head.
This audiobook is my own copy purchased from Audible.com, I had no obligation to write this review.
This was my first experience of listening to an audiobook in conjunction with the Kindle Whispersync. Actually, I'd purchased a Whispersync copy of a previous audiobook but forgot to use it. I highly recommend the experience, the book does provide that little bit more information. In this case, it was good to have the research resources and a drawn map of old Leeds.