Author: Will Thomas
This is my introduction to Barker and Llewellyn mysteries. I regret it taking so long to discover this series, for it has all the ingredients to become an enduring classic.
Copyright: May 2014 (Minotaur Books) 304 pgs
Series: 6th in Barker and Llewellyn series
Sensuality: Some violence (not very graphic)
Mystery Sub-genre: Historical police procedural
Main Characters: Private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his apprentice, Thomas Llewellyn
Setting: 1886 London
Obtained Through: Publisher for an honest review
Sherlock had Moriarity and Cyrus Barker has his arch-nemesis Sebastian Nightwine. But Cyrus Barker had exposed Nightwine a few years beforehand and never expected to see or hear of him again. But the British government has forgiven his criminal past and welcomed him back to London. Nightwine has a plan that would expand the British empire and the government has taken the bait.
In the first chapter the action starts and quickly Barker and Llewellyn are wanted fugitives when Nightwine begins his revenge. The indomitable Cyrus Barker and loyal apprentice Thomas must figure out what Nightwine's deal with the government is really all about and prevent a tragic government blunder while dodging arrest. Oh, and avoid the assassin out to kill them. The story is told from Llewellyn's point of view with a witty voice that lightens the tale.
Thomas Llewellyn is bookish, yet he is the right hand person to London's premier enquiry agent (private investigator). He knows life is good for him, and he has a level head with a humorous outlook. He never takes himself very seriously and is very loyal. He makes a great view point character. Cyrus Barker is a solemn, sober-minded man of larger-than-life background and determination with a splash of action hero. Inspector Terence Poole of Scotland Yard is Barker's friend who risks his career. Jacob Maccabee, Barker's grouchy servant who occasionally let's some of his inner man and emotions show - the man who wanted to be the apprentice, who will risk his life to help stop Nightwine. Jenkins is their office clerk who may be suited to filing, but jumps in to assist Barker without a thought. Soho Vic is one of Barker's informants, or "watchers", who is a young Fagan running a gang. I want to see more of this character. Then there is Sofia Ilyanova, an angelic vision who gets under Thomas' skin, but whose motives are suspect throughout the book.
Victorian London is presented as more than a historical travelog as Barker and Llewellyn hide out in various parts of the vast city. The Masons of London are utilized differently than is usual and it makes a nice touch. The plot is part PI and part Suspense with plenty of action. The climax isn't a standard killer reveal, since the reader is made aware of who the "bad guy" is. It is rather a showdown. The wrap-up leaves a little hint that one little aspect of this story may come back to haunt Barker and Llewellyn later.
I was surprised by the dramatic quick pace combined by a unique, even charming, narrative voice. This has joined my list of "must reads."
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.