Barbara’s rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Barker and Llewelyn #9
Publication Date: 11/14/18
How in the world have I managed to miss this author and this series? This is basically the tenth book in the series because I think one of the others was a .5 book. I loved the characters of Barker and Llewelyn as well as the other members of the ensemble cast. The book is well plotted and well written and even has a bit of humor.
Cyrus Barker is a self-made man whose parents were missionaries. They died during a cholera epidemic in China when Cyrus was still young. This book didn’t spell out all of his history, but he made his fortune from captaining a merchant vessel that ran from Hokkaido to Singapore. Afterward, he started the Barker Enquiry Agency and has done remarkable well – often solving cases that Scotland Yard can’t. He’s a gruff bear of a man that most folks walk on tiptoes around. Six years ago, his assistant was killed during an investigation and after winnowing through many applicants, he hired Thomas Llewelyn. That was a shock to everyone because Thomas definitely appeared to be the least qualified applicant.
I didn’t learn as much about Thomas Llewelyn in this book. Evidently, he had been a scholar and had a number of dead-end jobs and finally served eight months in prison for theft. This book doesn’t actually say, but I think he was convicted on a false accusation by a peer. Thomas seems to be a very good investigator who works on intuition and methodical investigation.
I liked the secondary characters in the series and would be interested in reading more about them. There is Jenkins, the alcoholic slacker who is their clerk; Mac who is their majordomo at their residence; Rebecca, a lovely widow, who is Llewelyn’s betrothed and Philippa, also a widow and in a relationship with Barker. Other recurring characters seem to be from Scotland Yard and a lawyer turned enquiry agent who works directly across from Barker’s agency.
The book begins with Llewelyn telling us – “I detest Mondays with all my soul. I always have.” That is a portent for his day! As he and Barker have settled into their shared office for the day’s work, Llewelyn hears something and feels a bit of a jolt. There had been an explosion at a nearby building a while back that had shaken their offices, and this felt much the same. Then, he is shocked to see Barker sink through the floor – followed by his desk, the file cabinet and ending with Llewelyn’s desk, chair and finally Llewellyn. The entire office floor and all of its contents had fallen down into the basement. Llewellyn had enough time to recognize what was happening and managed to get into his roll-top desk and pull the thing closed, so he wasn’t seriously injured. The same was not true for Barker. He was buried under six feet of all sorts of rubble, including his huge heavy desk. Barker’s worst injury seemed to be a shattered leg that would put him out of commission for quite some time. Thus, the investigation into the explosion falls directly and solely onto Llewellyn’s shoulders.
Obviously, someone wants to bring Barker and by association Llewelyn down. They don’t want to just cause problems, they want serious physical injury – maybe even death. So Llewelyn begins going over old cases where the perpetrators had threatened Barker and there were several of them. As Llewelyn investigates each of those cases, more and more things happen – not just to Llewelyn, but to those they hold dear. There are red herrings, twists, turns, and revelations before the final solution. It is a great mystery.
An additional wrench-in-the-works is the appearance of Barker’s estranged brother. Each had actually thought the other had died. Caleb Barker had gone to America (from China) when he was very young – maybe eighteen or so. He is Cyrus’ older brother. In his first appearance, Llewelyn thinks he has found a full-sized, living, breathing American cowboy. He was a full head taller than Llewelyn and was wearing a brown slicker, wide-brimmed hat, long mustache and he had a gun belt on his hip. It turns out that Caleb works for the Pinkerton Detective Agency in America. Even though he is Barker’s brother, neither Barker nor Llewelyn trusts him. Actually, I liked him and can’t wait to see what happened to him when he returned to America.
I love historical mysteries – they are my absolute favorite – but – I like romance in them as well. Is there a genre called historical romantic mysteries? Anyway, this book actually had Llewelyn and Rebecca’s wedding in it. I wonder how that will work out with future stories. I’d love to see both Rebecca and Philippa take roles in investigations in the future.
Some of Llewelyn’s thoughts that I thought were witty:
–“It is necessary to moderate the intake of sunlight between one’s lashes after imbibing freely the night before.”
–“One can sulk for an hour or so, but brooding can take days.”
–“It was the sound of a woman’s boots clicking in fury. Every man on earth is acquainted with the sound;”
–“Pie cannot fix everything, of course, but it has never ruined anything either.”
–“Could you translate that from American to English?”
I certainly recommend this book, but you should be aware that it is written in the first person.
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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”