Gambling, blackmail, ladies of the night, and murder. Journey back in time to the seamy underbelly of Victorian Pontypridd in Leslie Scase’s debut novel Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow.

Inspired by his Italian and English ancestors, who settled in South Wales in the 19th century, and the town where coal and iron were king, Leslie finds the perfect setting for his book in this dynamic, industrial landscape.

“Pontypridd wasn’t all coal mines and choirs,” said author Leslie Scase. “It was a melting pot of people and cultures, and that’s what I wanted to convey in the book. It was a magnet for workers from Wales, England and beyond, all seeking a better life.

The story begins in 1893, with a train crash, and in the chaos of the disaster, a killer covers the trail of a violent murder. But two years later Inspector Thomas Chard’s arrival in Pontypridd from rural Shropshire coincides with the grisly discovery of a body in the River Taff.

Inspector Chard must find his feet in the burgeoning Pontypridd police force and the rudimentary police procedures of the time. When the remains are fished from the river, the workhouse infirmary becomes the first scene of investigation. Motives of love, hate and greed come to the surface as the body count rises.

“This is a novel that works on more than one level,” continues Leslie. “Principally it is a teasing, challenging crime novel that anyone can enjoy."

Investigations lead Chard beyond respectable society, through the shadowy back streets of Pontypridd to the seamier side of town populated by money lenders, pick pockets, prostitutes and gamblers.

“We tend to associate Victorian crime novels with the fog-filled streets of Whitechapel and Jack the Ripper like characters,” said Gomer Editor, Susan Roberts, “but Leslie has chosen Pontypridd, a rather unassuming town, as the dark and brooding setting for Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow.”

Leslie Scase will be holding a talk on Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow in the Pontypridd Museum at 18:30 on Friday the 22nd of March 2019. All welcome / Free entrance.

Fortuna’s Deadly Shadow is out now, priced at £8.99 and will be available at all good bookshops and online from gwales.com