Set against the grimness of the lives of mill workers in Bingley, West Yorkshire, the second book in the Hudson and Lawes trilogy opens in 1839 almost exactly a year after the affair at Seddon workhouse in Suffolk where the two men first met. Characters now familiar from the first in the trilogy, On the House reappear and play integral roles in the story.
Increasingly recognised as a successful investigative journalist, Ambrose Hudson is canvassed by an overseer in a woollen mill to follow up his suspicions of illegal child labour in the North-East. The man is also concerned that the heinous practice of baby farming is operating in the same area. A four-handed investigation is needed and Ambrose persuades his friend Edgar Lawes to accompany him to Bingley where the two men are quickly embroiled in undercover work and surveillance of the perpetrators of both crimes. The farming of babies for hard cash is something new to both men, and the viciousness of the criminals involved is shocking. During the investigation the friends meet an old adversary and Ambrose sets out on the beginnings of a tragic love affair.
As always, Ambrose endeavoured to look the part he should be playing. In this case it was more difficult because he would not be travelling directly to his ultimate destination, but instead diverting to Suffolk where, undoubtedly, he would find it necessary to socialise with old friends and acquaintances – but only for a short time if he had his way. Not an unpleasant task, but being the single-minded man he was it would be for him an unnecessary digression, apart from reacquainting himself with his friends Peter and William, and Ted Lake who had been on the ‘right’ side and instrumental later in reforming the running of Seddon workhouse.
He gathered together a good supply of workman’s clothing and two pairs of stout boots. Unlike his time as an inmate of the House, it was not necessary for him to look completely down on his luck. As a working man seeking new employment he could present himself as well set-up according to his station. Neither did he have to go through the painful process of losing weight to look half-starved. Indeed, it was necessary that he build up some muscle if he was to be a credible labourer. He realised how out of condition he was as the result of his sedentary trade as a writer, although his height and build was such that he could never be considered fat – perhaps softer. He took steps to tone up, but limited time meant he would have to keep up his exercises until he arrived in Bingley. Perhaps, while he was in Suffolk he could get some riding in if Edgar would lend him the ambling mare. But he had to start the physical process immediately and so he asked his landlady whether she had any physical jobs she needed doing.
‘What about these logs, Mrs. Bridie? They must need splitting,’ and he pointed out the large pile which was delivered to Mrs. Bridie fortnightly and lay mounting up in the back-yard.
‘Young Thomas comes to do that, Mr. Hudson. I couldn’t possibly put him out of a job. He needs the money.’
‘What if I was to pay him what he would have earned, plus a small bonus for inconvenience, and tell him to take the time off?’
‘I’m sure he wouldn’t argue with that Mr. Hudson,’ laughed his landlady.
The lad didn’t argue and went off to find paid occupation elsewhere for the two weeks. Now they were both happy; the boy was well in pocket and swinging the large axe twice daily did wonders for Ambrose’s physique – even in a couple of weeks.
Hello to all those who supported my first book On the House, the result of which is that it's now in print and has had some encouraging reviews. Thank you all. Many of you asked me when the next one is coming out and two days ago the project to get Innocents to the Slaughter into publication was launched. I hope the support I received last time is replicated for this novel, which I think you'll…
These people are helping to fund Innocents To The Slaughter.