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by Will Thomas
Minotaur, April 2022
304 pages
ISBN: 1250624797

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Thirteenth in the Barker & Llewelyn series by Will Thomas, FIERCE POISON opens with a Member of Parliament falling dead in the offices of private enquiry agents Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn. It's clear that the man has been poisoned, and Barker feels duty bound to hunt down the killer. Nothing else quite as dramatic as that beginning takes place as Barker and Llewelyn make their way through London of 1893 tracking a killer, but the death count grows, both detectives and the people they care about are threatened, and an enticing game of cat-and-mouse plays out before being neatly wrapped up at the end.

Reminiscent of a more famous duo's stories, the Barker and Llewelyn tale is told by Thomas Llewelyn, the junior detective of the two, but a savvy observer, nonetheless, who slips in telling observations about his partner as well as about the mystery. While both characters are quite likeable and have a bit of depth to them, the plot is the focus here, and it is both interesting and intricate enough to keep the pages turning at a measured pace. Nineteenth-century London plays a small role, mostly just in creating an atmosphere: don't look for intricate descriptions or deeply researched details (although the details included are enough to set the scene believably enough). A couple of historical characters do make an appearance and/or are referenced, mostly, it seems, to give the setting credibility, but they aren't distracting, and nothing feels forced.

FIERCE POISON works well as a standalone novel, although there are brief references to prior cases and events. Barker and Llewelyn come off well, too, at a first meeting, and there are enough hints about their characters, personalities, and past lives to encourage reading earlier books in the series to get to know these two better. Overall, while series novels may be hard to sustain over a long period of time, Thomas doesn't seem to be losing any of his powers to entertain.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, April 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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