When his arch-nemesis Sebastian Nightwine returns to town, detective Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewellyn are on guard. But why does Nightwine have diplomatic immunity and protection from Scotland Yard? Can Barker and Llewellyn find out what Nightwine is up to without winding up in jail?
I got this from Netgalley and the fine folks at St. Martin's.
This is the sixth Barker and Llewellyn book but, as the blurb on Netgalley promised, serves to reintroduce the pair to new readers and does a fine job at that. While there were a few references to past cases, I was perfectly able to enjoy this one on its own.
When it comes to Victorian detective stories, all things start with Sherlock Holmes. While Barker and Llewellyn might be the literary great grandchildren of Holmes and Watson, they owe little to the Great Detective and his chronicler. Barker, with his keen detective skills, is the Holmes of the pair, but he's a burly world traveler known for his skill with firearms and his fists. And he's not addicted to opium or other illicit substances, which is refreshing in a Victorian era detective. Llewellyn is a young handsome former felon and widower.
Another things that separates Barker and Llewellyn from Holmes and Watson is that Holmes and Watson never took a world class shit-kicking. Barker and Llewellyn go through several wringers in this one.
The story isn't all that complex at the beginning. Sebastian Nightwine, Barker's moriarty, returns to London with a plan of conquest and some maps and gets diplomatic immunity to keep Barker off his back. Soon, Barker is framed for murder and gets a bounty put on his head. Things quickly spiral out of control with a mysterious woman thrown into the mix.
Llewellyn, idealistic young Welshman, is a great narrator since he's normally almost as in the dark as the reader. Barker is a complicated man with a complicated past, far from the Sherlock Holmes-inspired character I thought he would be before I started reading. I felt bad for poor Llewellyn, getting dragged in Barker's wake for most of the book and taking a really brutal beating for his employer.
Will Thomas's writing has a fairly serious tone but was much easier to digest than a lot of similar books. There was also a good amount of humor. I loved that there was a killer named Psmith in it, who found the need to mention the silent P, much like P.G. Wodehouse's Psmith character. Man, I really need to read another Wodehouse book sometime soon.
Anyway, despite being the sixth book in a series and the first I've read, I found Fatal Enquiry to be a very engaging mystery full of characters I want to read more about. To the bookstore! Four out of five stars.