Summary and book reviews of The Hocus Girl by Chris Nickson

The Hocus Girl

A Simon Westow mystery

by Chris Nickson

The Hocus Girl by Chris Nickson X
The Hocus Girl by Chris Nickson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2020, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2020, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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About this Book

Book Summary

Thief-taker Simon Westow must save one of his closest friends from a grim fate at the hands of the government in this compelling historical mystery.

Leeds, May 1822. Thief-taker Simon Westow owes Davey and Emily Ashton everything - the siblings gave him sanctuary when he needed it most. So when Davey is arrested for sedition and Emily begs Simon for help, he starts asking questions, determined to clear his friend. Are the answers linked to rumours of a mysterious government spy in town?

Davey's not the only one who needs Simon's help. Timber merchant George Ericsson has been 'hocussed' by a young woman who spiked his drink and stole his valuable ring and watch. Who is she, and how does she know one of Simon's assistant Jane's deepest secrets? The path to the truth is twisted and dangerous. Simon and Jane encounter murder, lies, betrayal and a government terrified of its own people as they attempt to save Davey and find the hocus girl.

Excerpt
THE HOCUS GIRL

Leeds, May 1822

The man uncurled his fist to show the pocket watch. Candlelight reflected and shimmered on the gold.

'Open it up,' Simon Westow said.

Inside the cover, an inscription: From Martha to Walter, my loving husband.

'See?' the man said. 'The real thing, that is. Proper gold. Keeps good time and—'

The knife at his throat silenced him.

'And it was stolen three days ago,' Simon said. He held the blade steady, stretching the man's skin without breaking it. 'Where's the rest?' With a gentle touch, he lifted the watch out of the man's palm and slipped it into his pocket. 'Well?'

'Don't know.' The man gasped the words. His head was pushed back against the wall, neck exposed. 'I bought this from Robby Barstow.'

'When?' A little more pressure, enough to bring a single drop of warm blood.

'Last night.'

The man's eyes were wide, pleading, the whites showing. It was the truth. He was too terrified to lie.

'Then you'd best tell Robby I'm coming for...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

I'm satisfied with how the loose ends were tied up, but I wanted to read more about how the events of the plot changed the characters. After getting to know them through these ordeals, I would've liked to see them move on afterwards, and there's only a glimmer of that. But perhaps my desire to watch these characters grow is a testament to the impression they've made on me and my curiosity about whether they'll transcend this gritty city that gives them life while always threatening to take it away. I look forward to learning more in the continuation of the series...continued

Full Review Members Only (821 words).

(Reviewed by Erin Lyndal Martin).

Media Reviews

Booklist
Combines multiple twists, vivid descriptions of life in the early nineteenth century, strong characters, and a surprising ending.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
This historical tour de force reminds readers who come for the mystery that life hasn't changed for the disenfranchised.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
The clever plot, which doesn't center on a whodunit, is based on real events. Historical mysteries don't get much better than this.

Author Blurb Joanne Harris, bestselling author of Chocolat
Beautifully balanced between suspense and action... the historical background... [is], as always, engaging, detailed and authentic.

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Beyond the Book

Jonathan Wild: The Thief-Taker General

Ticket to Jonathan Wild's hanging 1725In The Hocus Girl, set in the Northern England city of Leeds in the early 19th century, the three protagonists are thief-takers. They're hired to reclaim stolen property in exchange for a reward from the person who had been robbed. They acted as intermediaries, using their connections and intimidation techniques to get justice for crime victims.

Not all thief-takers were as upstanding as those in The Hocus Girl. Working this job created a lot of opportunities for duplicity, and no one knew that better than Jonathan Wild, nicknamed "The Thief-Taker General." In 1680, London was dealing with an abundance of crime as the city grew. The publishing industry was also expanding, and now there were newspapers reporting atrocities and petty ...

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