Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Barker and Llewelyn #12
Publication Date: 4/13/21
Number of Pages: 320
Russians have invaded London! Well, not really, but it sure seems like it in this newest release in the Victorian Barker and Llewelyn series. The enigmatic Barker and the intrepid Llewelyn definitely have their work cut out for them in trying to untangle the web of intrigue and assassination aimed at Russia’s royal family – or is it England’s royal family in the crosshairs? Oh! You’ll not be able to put this one down until the very end, and then you’ll sigh with contentment — and then frustration because it is all over and you have to wait for the next one.
In the middle of 1893, England is abuzz with news and plans for the upcoming wedding of Queen Victoria’s son George to Princess Mary. Part of that buzz is happy anticipation for England’s royal family and the continuing alliances being made by royal marriages. Another part of that buzz is from citizens, anarchists, and socialists who vociferously protest the massive amount of spending being done for the wedding. In their view, that money could be much better spent on helping the poor, feeding the hungry, etc.
As Barker and Llewelyn sat at their desks, they could hear a lovely, rich, baritone voice in their reception area. As Mr. Llewelyn writes in his notes – He was American, our visitor; no one irons a sentence like an American. He was indeed an American – from Alabama, but that had nothing to do with why he was there. Jim Hercules is a former boxer who is now working in the household of the Tsar of Russia. Jim’s role is more a ceremonial one, but he has befriended the Tsar’s son and heir – Nikolai Alexandrovich. Since he’s sure Nikolai is about to be murdered, he’s come to Barber and Llewelyn to investigate and save Nikolai’s life. While Barker doesn’t immediately accept the case, he does decide to feel things out.
Things are very tense in London at the moment and there are a great many anarchists present who have been persecuted in Russia – they are spoiling to start something – and many of them think assassination would be just the thing to start the revolution that would bring Russia down. As Barker and Llewelyn are passing the palace, they manage to thwart an attempted assassination that almost takes the life of Prince George. Was he really the target? Prince George and Nikolai look very much alike.
It will take all of Barker’s cunning and Llewelyn’s perseverance to keep Nikolai alive. Can they manage it? Nikolai is a spoiled, brattish, immature, child-man who has absolutely no concept of danger. Nikolai throws more wrenches in the works than you can keep up with – he has even brought his mistress along to even further put a wrench in the works.
Who is the assassin called La Sylphide? When you learn, your jaw will drop because, if you’ve read other books in the series, you have met them before. There are twists and turns and things you just won’t see coming before all is solved. Or is it?
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and can highly recommend it. At the end, there is a twist we didn’t see coming and I’m pretty sure it will rear its head again in a future book or two. I didn’t care for Rebecca’s reaction to that twist that came at the end. After all, every bit of that came before she and Thomas were an item. It didn’t detract from the story, and I highly recommend you giving it a try. This is one I’ll definitely read again.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.