Blood is Blood (Barker and Llewellyn #10)
by Will Thomas
Expected Publication November 13, 2018 by Minotaur
From Goodreads: A bombing injures private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker, leaving it up to his soon-to-be-married junior partner Thomas Llewelyn to find the person trying to murder them both before it’s too late—in the newest mystery in Will Thomas’s beloved series.
In 19th century London, Cyrus Barker and his associate Thomas Llewelyn are renowned private enquiry agents, successfully employed by the highest levels of Her Majesty’s government as well as private citizens. Their success, however, has led to their acquiring a powerful group of enemies, many of whom are determined to have their revenge.
At least one of those enemies is responsible for a bombing of their offices that puts Cyrus Barker into the hospital and endangers Thomas Llewelyn’s rapidly forthcoming nuptials. To add to the confusion, Barker’s long-lost brother Caleb turns up on the rubble of their doorstep not long after the not-quite-fatal bombing.
Unsure of Caleb and warned about him by Barker, Thomas reluctantly accepts Caleb’s help both with a new case that comes in as well as trying to pinpoint which of Barker’s enemies is making a move against them. As Thomas works his way through their enemy list, someone else is winnowing down that list: one by one those enemies are dying.
With time running out—and his bride-to-be reconsidering their marriage—Llewelyn must (with the sick-bed bound Barker’s help) uncover the killer and the plot before it’s too late.
Have you ever had one of those friends that you can go for months without seeing, but once you meet up again it’s like no time has passed at all and you pick up right where you left off? That’s how I feel when I open a new volume of Will Thomas’s Barker and Llewellyn series. This has been my favorite mystery series since I came upon the second book, To Kingdom Come, on the New Releases shelf at my local library. Suffice to say that I was thrilled when NetGalley approved my request for a digital ARC of the latest installment, Blood is Blood. To describe my real reaction would be admitting that I might have lost all dignity for a few moments.
When the story opens, all is going well for our narrator, Thomas Llewellyn. Mostly. He’s preparing for his upcoming wedding and he knows nothing about flowers, though he is quickly learning to say, ‘Yes, dear, whatever you want’ when it comes to his fiancee’s wishes. This sweet opening comes to a sudden, explosive end when Llewellyn arrives at his workplace at the office of Cyrus Barker, Private Enquiry Agent. Someone sets off explosives under the building, and Barker and Llewellyn barely escape with their lives. Barker is badly injured, and so it is up to Llewellyn to solve the mystery of who, exactly, wants them dead badly enough to blow up a building. The list is long, but not beyond Llewellyn’s means to investigate alone, though matters are complicated by the unexpected appearance of Barker’s brother Caleb. Instead of simplifying matters, Caleb’s arrival complicates them and adds to the web of intrigue that could result not only in Llewellyn’s death but in the ending of his marriage before it even begins.
I will admit that I approached this book with sky-high expectations. I love this series more and more with each new volume, and it seems like every new book is better than the last. I was not disappointed. Blood is Blood is as fast-paced and witty as the previous books and left me guessing about the culprit right up to the reveal, which hasn’t happened for a while. I’ve been able to identify ‘whodunnit’ in the past few books, and I was happily in the dark for this one.
But I don’t read these books solely for the mysteries. I adore the characters, and from the opening pages of the first book, I knew Thomas Llewellyn’s voice was one I’d fall in love with. He starts out as a naive young ex-scholar/ex-convict from the Welsh countryside, and though he develops his gentlemanly manners (and combat skills) across the ten books of the series, he never loses his wit and charm. Other mysteries set in Victorian London might garner more acclaim and fame, but this one will always be my favorite. Their wry humor and gritty Victorian atmosphere drew me in, and their inherent humanism keeps me coming back. There are few mystery series I’ve found where the detectives are so devoted to the fundamentals of justice, no matter the race, religion, class, or sexual orientation of the victim. Or that of the perpetrator.
The morally upright, if rather intimidating Cyrus Barker necessarily takes a step back in Blood is Blood, forcing his protégé to take a step forward and use the skills he’s been honing for the past nine books. While Llewellyn does slip up a few times, its clear that Barker chose the right man all those years ago. Llewellyn has become a capable investigator, even if he doesn’t realize it himself. He will be taking a larger role in upcoming cases, I think, if not working his own caseload in a more solo fashion.
More changes are in the air for other key characters and while I welcome them, I approach them with the sort of trepidation one feels when facing a shift in one’s life. How will these changes affect Barker and Llewellyn? More importantly, how will they affect Harm, Barker’s beloved Pekingese? I have more questions, but to ask them here would spoil the surprises. Suffice it to say that Blood is Blood is a worthy successor to the preceding novels while acting as a turning point for future books.
Will Thomas’s narrative voice is unique among mystery novels, maintaining a gritty, atmospheric realism that does not rely on gore or sexual violence to emphasize the horrific nature of the crime or the urgency of the investigation. His tone moves from humor to drama to moments of grace as smoothly as the turning of a page while the plot maintains a quick pace, slowing down for moments of introspection that deepen the reader’s appreciation of the characters without dragging the story to a halt.
If I have one complaint about Blood is Blood, it’s that I will now have to wait an entire year before the next book comes out. In the meantime, I will simply have to reread Blood is Blood, listen to the audiobook, and then reread the entire series.
Thank you to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing me a free eGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.