Saturday, June 09, 2007

TO KINGDOM COME

TO KINGDOM COME
by Will Thomas
Touchstone
275 pages

I love Sherlock Holmes and have enjoyed not only the original Conan Doyle stories but the hundreds of pastiches written over the years by various authors. What I have not relished are all the Holmes imitations that have tried to copy Doyle’s format. Several years ago I discovered a novel set in Victorian London that dealt with another Holmes’ contemporary but was refreshingly original. The book was SOME DANGER INVOLVED by Will Thomas and it was the beginning of a new detective series starring Cyrus Barker, agent of inquiry, and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn.

It was a terrific book and the character of Barker a joy to discover. A former sea captain with a mysterious past, Barker always wears sunglasses, is a student of martial arts, eastern philosophy and enjoys gourmet foods. Alike the more cerebral Holmes, Barker relishes action and is not afraid to get his fists dirty in a good scuffle for queen and country.

In this, the second volume in the series, Scotland Yard is bombed by Irish terrorists and the Home Office wants the culprits found and brought to justice at the soonest possible opportunity. To that end, the Home Secretary opts to hire an independent investigator, Cyrus Barker, whose underworld connections are well known throughout the intelligence community. It is hoped that Barker’s expertise and radical methods will prove more successful over the more traditional police agencies.

Barker’s gambit is to disguise himself as a famous German bomb-maker, with Llewelyn, posing as his young, Welsh apprentice and then manipulate circumstances whereby they cross paths with the Irish sympathizers in Liverpool. His plan goes off like clock-work and soon he and Thomas found themselves part of a grandiose plot to simultaneously blow up half a dozen famous London landmarks, including the private residents of the Prince of Wales.

It is a suspenseful adventure, as Barker and Llewelyn must never let down their guard for a second, as they carry out their subterfuge in hopes they will have enough time to foil the bombings before the attack is launched. During the mission, Thomas finds himself falling in love with one of the Irish terrorist’s beautiful sister, and finds his own loyalties questioned. Is his duty to England greater than his love for this winsome, Irish lovely? And can he possibly save her when the final confrontation?

TO KINGDOM COME is a fun new chapter in this series and one I enjoyed from start to finish. There is a third in print and I will be eagerly picking it up soon. So, as stated earlier, if you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes and would like to meet one of his more original peers, you can do no better than reading TO KINGDOM COME. Cyrus Barker is a man the great detective would have certainly called an equal.


4 comments:

Stu Shiffman said...

This is a very good series -- and I have the new book on my To Be Read pile.

I didn't like To Kingdom Come as much as Some Danger Involved, perhaps because the Irish milieu was less interesting to me. Still, good characters and exciting situations; what could be bad?

Ron Fortier said...

Hmm, I personally couldn't choose between the two, as the first was a ball meeting the characters and this one was just a joy to see them in action again. Can't wait to read the third, LIMEHOUSE. Like yourself, on my reading table.
Oh, and before I forget, my pals, Martin Powell and Greg Gick, both Holmes fanatics, tell me Barker is actually mentioned in one of the Doyle Holmes' stories wherein Sherlock mentions him as a noted rival in the detecting game.
Am going to have to hunt that up. Thanks for writing,
Ron

Glen said...

I finally got this. Despite a few anachronisms and failures of logic, I thought it was great. It was great to read a novel without irony. These days that's quite a rare occurence.

Ron Fortier said...

Amen to that statement, Glen. Thomas is so true and direct with his chracters, they are what they are.
Now you have got to read the third
one, LIMEHOUSE TEXT which devles into Barker's background a great deal.
I pray Thomas keeps writing this series, as I it is now one of my favorites.