Saturday, October 27, 2012

Some Danger Involved: Review

Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas is one of the most engaging historical mysteries set in Victorian England that I have read in a long time.  Very atmospheric and informative--informative without being pedantic.  The story begins with Thomas Llewelyn, a down-on-his-luck ex-Oxford man and ex-prisoner.  Llewelyn has found it very difficult to get employment after spending time in Oxford prison for a very small crime.  He is nearly ready to end his suffering--permanently--when he sees an advertisement in The Times:

Assistant to prominent enquiry agent. Typing and shorthand required. Some danger involved in performance of duties. Salary commensurate with ability. 7 Craig's Court.

He goes to Craig's Court on the first day, but the line is so long he quickly gives up the wait.  When the advertisement is still running for a fourth day, he decides to give it one more try...and if he doesn't get this job, then he will be seeking out the river.

Fortunately for him, Cyrus Barker, the enquiry agent in question, sees something in this downtrodden man that makes him give Llewelyn a chance.  The Welshman has barely had time to settle in to his new establishment--which serves as home as well as work--when Barker is called in by prominent men in the Jewish community to investigate the horrible murder of a young scholar in the Jewish quarter.  It is Barker's job to determine if this was a private feud or if this represents a violent outbreak of the unrest which is sweeping England with the influx of Jewish refugees. Neither Barker nor Lord Rothschild and Sir Moses Montefiore want to see an English version of the pogroms. The trail takes Barker and Llewelyn from the meanest streets of the Jewish ghetto to the lair of the early Italian mafia to the churches of London. There will be another murder and Llewelyn will come close to being a third victim before he and his employer can close the case.

Thomas gives us a new look at the Holmes and Watson/Wolfe and Goodwin detective team.  Lots more action than most of the Holmes stories and Barker is far more mobile and physically involved than Nero Wolfe generally is.  I thoroughly enjoyed this new addition to the ranks.  The characters are interesting and I particularly like the interaction between Barker and Llewelyn.  They have the chemistry necessary to create a duo to follow in such auspicious footsteps.  We learn a lot about Llewelyn background, but there is still plenty to be revealed about his employer.  The other members of Barker's staff from Mac the butler and general factotum to Dummolard, his French chef, are also well-drawn.  And I hope to see more of Inspector Poole of the C.I.D.   I also enjoyed the historical information that Thomas works into the narrative.  I appreciate learning something when I pick up a historical novel without being beaten over the head with scholarship.  Thomas weaves knowledge about the Jewish population in England into the story without overburdening it.  He gives us enough to know why this was such a hot topic without sounding like a text book.

This is an interesting and entertaining beginning to a fairly new historical mystery series.  I look forward to future installments.  Five stars.


neer said...

This sounds exciting.

Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis said...

I read The Limehouse Text last year but didn't realize it was part of a series. I'm so glad to find that it is - it was excellent!