Saturday, December 20, 2008

REVIEW: The Hellfire Conspiracy

Title: The Hellfire Conspiracy
Author: Will Thomas
ISBN: 9780743296403/ Touchstone
Historical Mystery, #4 in the Barker & Llewelyn series
Protagonist(s); Clive Barker and Thomas Llewelyn, private enquiry agents
Setting: London, England in the 1880s
Rating: A-

First Line: I recognized the sound, though I had never heard it before.

This series, loosely patterned after Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, is fun to read. Told from the point of view of Thomas Llewelyn, a young Welsh ex-convict who was given a job by private enquiry agent, Clive Barker, each book in the series is set in a different district in London's East End. Thomas is fascinated by his boss: a tall, strong, mysterious man who always wears dark glasses. He knows that Barker spent many years at sea and in China, that Barker is extremely intelligent and well-read, that he prefers to drink gunpowder green tea, and that he knows martial arts. But there are many areas of Barker's life that are unknown to him. Thomas is a babe in the woods with an eye for the ladies, and these two characteristics are part of the charm of his narration.

In this fourth installment, Barker and Llewelyn are interrupted in the office by a desperate Guards officer, Major DeVere, whose twelve-year-old daughter has disappeared. At first thought to be a victim of white slavers, as Barker and Llewelyn begin investigating, they find that the culprit is really a serial killer preying on young girls in Bethnal Green. Their job is to identify and catch the murderer before the body count gets any higher.

As always, the author immersed me in the streets of London. I could see, hear, smell and taste the Bethnal Green area. Thomas's narration brought more than a few smiles and chuckles, and the race to find the killer was engrossing. The only reason why I downgraded the book a bit was that I knew the identity of the killer when the character was first introduced, and this isn't normal for a book by this author. Even though I knew whodunit, the chase more than made up for it.

If you like historical mysteries set in Victorian London that have a touch of humor, you should give Will Thomas's books a try.

This copy of The Hellfire Conspiracy also includes a Reading Group Guide and an interview with Will Thomas.


  1. I've been meaning to read this series. Sounds like I shouldn't really be putting it off. Thanks for the review.

  2. You've made that book sound wonderful - great review.

  3. Very tasty review. I think I'll have a nibble!

  4. If any of you three get a chance to read it, I hope you enjoy!


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