Book Review: The Dead on Leave by Chris Nickson

Was Implant not enough police crime drama for you? No problem! Here is another to add to your reading list.

The Dead on Leave* by Chris Nickson is set in Leeds in 1936 and begins with a body being found during a British Union of Fascists rally. It is up to Detective Sergeant Urban Raven to solve a crime that has virtually no clues, no witnesses and no obvious motive. Not to mention the red tape, politics and the press himself and his colleagues have to battle against.

I enjoy old school police work so I knew from the start that I would like this book. In comparison to some others I’ve read in this genre, The Dead on Leave is a lot less action-packed and was somewhat of a slow burner in terms of plot. But that is ok. It made the story more realistic in my opinion; not every police investigation has many dramatic twists and turns, especially during this era. It was was also interesting to see how murder cases were investigated without the technology available today.

However, what really stood out for me in this book was not the crime itself but the insight into 1930s Leeds. The Dead on Leave has somewhat of a Peaky Blinders Season 1 vibe, brought on by the emphasis on police informants, vast unemployed men and the Communist Party. This is where the author excels, in his ability to bring a certain period to life through a vast array of characters and a wonderfully precise attention to detail. In particular, I felt that the author fully portrayed the sadness of the time, brought on by the Depression. I can only admire him for the amount of research that must have gone into writing this book.

I think there were too many characters in this book, particularly toward the end, and a number of them were redundant to the story. However, I really liked the main character, Urban Raven. I found him an intelligent man, tough when he needed to be but also with a softer, caring side. This softer side is showcased in scenes with his wife Marjorie, a relationship I would have liked to see more of in the book.

Overall, I rather enjoyed this story and would like to see Urban Raven get his own series. If you read The Dead on Leave I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Dead on Leave by Chris Nickson

*affiliate link


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