First Sentence: I detest Mondays with all my soul.
Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn have become highly successful enquiry agents. But with success comes enemies. With only a fortnight before Thomas is to marry Rebecca, a bomb destroys their offices. With Barker in a coma, it is up to Thomas to uncover the villain. When a contractor goes missing, his wife comes to Barker & Llewelyn for help. Help appears unexpectedly in the shape of Barker's brother, Caleb who has been in America as a Pinkerton agent. Can Thomas solve the cases and prevent his fiancée from canceling their wedding?
What a great opening. It is one with which anyone who works can identify, and the introduction to Thomas is delightfully self-deprecating and unusual, which is a nice change. The inclusion of information on Cyrus Barker, Thomas' employer, is neatly done, and very succinct background of Thomas is provided. It is also the calm before the surprising storm which dramatically alters the tenor of the story. The introduction to Barker's inamorata, Phillipa Ashleigh, certainly makes an impression—"It was the sound of a woman's boots clicking in fury. Every man on earth is acquainted with the sound, it is instinctual."
Assembling the list of suspects is an effective way of acquainting, or re-acquainting, readers with previous cases in the series. A delightful reference is made to the address of their new office. With the case of the missing builder, it is very well done by the author that one is allowed to be suspicious very shortly before Thomas comes to the same realization. It's a clever way to make the reader feel directly involved in the story, and the first major twist is a corker.
What an apt description—"Ah, the Wealden murders." He replied. "Three men dead in a display of firearms, all Americans. It is as if they come from the womb with a gun in each hand." It is not easy to convey the action and danger of hand-to-hand combat in words, yet Thomas does a very credible job of making it real, visual, and with plenty of action. One certainly doesn't want for excitement or plot twists. They come one after the next in swift succession.
It's hard not to like the advice Caleb offers Thomas—"'A woman prefers a man who is confident.' 'I hadn't considered that.' 'And when she talks, listen, by god. She feels she has important things to say. Maybe she does and maybe she doesn't, but listen anyway.'" And Phillipa is such a wonderful character. She's the woman one would like to be and offers sage advice to Thomas when trying to win back his fiancée—"Don't shave; it shall make you look desperate. She'll complain, but she'll like that. Give her all the control."
The relationship between Thomas and Barker is truly that which draws one to the series. We know how the two men met, yet much of the appeal is Thomas' desire to grow and please Barker, not in a subservient way, but in the way of one who wants to earn the regard of someone greatly admired. As for Barker, he respects who Thomas is and who he has become, and that, in spite of everything, Thomas is—"still keen as you ever were."
It's amazing what one may learn—"There are a dozen of types of rain in London…"—and who knew about the difference between a noose with a Marwood ring rather than one without. One theme which is somewhat unusual for a story such as this is religion and faith. It is there not in a preachy way but in the best representation of it.
Will Thomas created an excellent reveal of one character's true purpose, the surprising appearance of an historical figure, and a very lovely ending.
"Blood is Blood: A Barker & Llewelyn Novel" is another wonderful read in an excellent historical mystery series filled with humor, suspense, great characters, and a wonderful sense of time and place. It can be read as a standalone, but I recommend reading the books in order.
BLOOD IS BLOOD: A Barker & Llewelyn Novel (HistMys-Barker/Llewelyn-London-1890) –VG+
Thomas, Will – 10th in series
Minotaur Books – Nov 2018