Friday, October 15, 2010


(A Barker & Llewelyn Novel)
By Will Thomas
Touchstone Books
289 pages

When a notorious Italian assassin and his wife are found stuffed in a barrel and floating down the Thames River, Scotland Yard puts out a call to Inquiry Agent Cyrus Barker to assist them in foiling a bloody gang war for the control of the London docks. A new criminal element has arrived from Sicily known as the Mafia and they want nothing less than complete control the entire London underworld.

THE BLACK HAND is the fifth in this series of mystery adventures starring the enigmatic Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. Like the others that preceded it, the joy of this volume is the amount of historical research Thomas embellishes the background. He has a fondness for history and it shines throughout the book, as his accurate depiction of London during Victoria’s reign is vibrant and mesmerizing. He relishes offering up tidbits of long forgotten lore that adds a true richness to the world in which our heroes operate.

From the first time Llewelyn met Barker, he has been slowly piecing together his employer’s colorful and mysterious background as a ship’s captain in the Far East. In this book more is revealed about Barker’s past, filling in the gaps to a man who is clearly Sherlock Holmes’ equal and not some half-baked copy. Both Llewelyn and Barker are original characters and their exploits a joy to read. This time the body count mount quickly as the mysterious unknown agents of the Black Hand attack ruthlessly, brutally eliminating anyone in their path. In the end Barker must form a coalition of London gangs to challenge the Sicilians and put an end to their vicious threat.

If you’ve yet to pick up this series, I would urge you to do so immediately. Historical mysteries simply do not get any better than the Barker & Llewelyn books. I cannot wait for number six.