Sunday, April 9, 2023

Fatal Enquiry

 Fatal Enquiry (2014) by Will Thomas:

Years ago in China, fighting in a war that wasn't his own, Cyrus Barker thought Sebastian Nightwine was his friend. Then Nightwine proved how treacherous he could be by sending Barker brother's on a mission he knew would fail. Cyrus vowed to make the man pay for his brother's death. Later in England, Barker exposed Nightwine's villainy which forced the colonel to flee England. But now the disgraced soldier has returned and has somehow earned the respect of the government and the right for police protection...from Barker. 

Nightwine has secret maps and a plan that will allow Britain to expand her already vast empire and not even Cyrus Barker will be allowed  to interfere with the scheme. It isn't long before Barker is framed for murder and he and his "Watson," Thomas Llewelyn are on the run from both the police and Nightwine and his henchmen. When a hefty reward is offered for their capture even long-time allies are tempted to turn them in. And, of course, Nightwine has a highly skilled assassin on their their trail as well--just to make certain sure that Barker won't mess up his plans, now or in the future.

Barker is just as determined to stop Nightwine--for good this time. He knows, as does Nightwine, that the twenty-five-year feud will come to end...because one of them will be dead at the end of this last confrontation. But he needs time to gather the evidence of the colonel's perfidy and time isn't a luxury that he and Llewelyn have.

So...once upon a time in 2014 I received this as an advanced reader copy. And somehow managed to not read and review it as planned. I think I wanted to read the two previous books first and then got sidetracked from my mission (soooo many books, too little time). But how on earth did almost ten years go by? 

Anyway...on to the review: Barker is in fine form as a far more mobile Nero Wolfe style detective. Highly intelligent, far ahead of the coppers, and always right. It was interesting to learn more of Barker's back story in this one--previously his past had been wrapped in mystery. But we learn a great deal about his early days in China. A past that very much informs the present adventure. It was also nice to see Llewelyn on his own for a bit. He isn't quite up to Barker's standard yet, but he acquits himself well--especially in his encounter with the spymaster. I was a bit dismayed at the number of victims who fell under the assassin's hand--and one victim in particular. I do see the point of the deaths, but still.

This isn't a whodunnit--we know who the bad guy is from the beginning. The mystery lies in how Barker will prove his innocence and how he and Llewelyn will be able to bring Nightwine to justice (of a sort). I am intrigued by the last chapter and wonder what might come of the news Barker is given at the end. ★★ and 1/2

First line: It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least among private enquiry agents, that the most momentous of cases, the real corkers, begin on the blandest, most ordinary of days.

Meaning is as much in how we say a thing as in what we say. Even his grunt held a tone of disappointment. (p. 24)

The problem with nicknames, I've always thought, is one never gets to invent one's own. (p. 54)

Barker believes that all poets should have the decency to be dead at least a century or two. I feel the same way about politicians. (p. 245)

One cannot go about indiscriminately telling the truth. It must be doled out in bits and pieces or no one shall ever believe it. (p. 261)

Last line: "And Nightwine knew it the entire time!"


Deaths =  9 (three natural; two stabbed; one shot; one poisoned; one hit on head; one shot)

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