Review: Blood is Blood by Will Thomas (Barker and Llewelyn)

Format: Hardcover
Pub Date: November 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Length: 308 pages
POV: 1st person, past
FTC: review copy courtesy of the publisher

I haven't read a lot of historical mysteries in 1st person, so this was a bit of a change for me. This book is also in the middle of a series, so I'm not sure I'd have had the same reading experience if I'd been following the series all along.

I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, I really liked the overall mystery and the setting and characters. On the other, I felt like it was missing some emotional depth, which is likely because I'm a character-centric reader. I want their thoughts and feelings on the page, and the emotions in particular were largely absent here, which I found weird considering the emotional events that form the focus of the book.

I have never read Will Thomas, nor had I heard of this series before, but I love historical mysteries and decided to give it a chance. The book begins with a bit of the Monday blues and an absentminded groom-to-be not listening to his fiance, then promptly devolves into chaos as the office of Barker Private Inquiries is blown to smithereens.

With Cyrus Barker injured and out of commission, Thomas Llewelyn must forgo wedding planning for taking the lead in the investigation. Complicating matters is Cyrus's brother, a Pinkerton detective who doesn't follow the rules and is not being altogether forthcoming.  I haven't seen a lot of Pinkerton detectives in English-set historicals, so I thought that was a fun twist.

My issue with the mystery itself was also likely because I hadn't read any of the previous books. It felt oddly like a filler episode on a TV series where they do flashbacks of things that had happened with only 10 minutes of new footage. It was a greatest hits kind of investigation, as Thomas investigates all of their former foes, trying to discover who had motive to blow up the office. The heavy reliance on back story didn't work for me at all, and I just couldn't get invested.

The only real emotional drama in the whole book centers around Thomas and Rebecca's wedding, and Rebecca coming to grips with the fact that she's marrying a man whose job is dangerous. But even here, the emotional reaction is mostly off of the page and muted.

There's enough uniqueness here to give historical mystery readers something just a bit different, although readers who prefer character-centric stories might be a tad disappointed. It was different, it had a great deal of setting and atmosphere, but I didn't love it the way I'd wanted to.  I'd recommend starting with a different book.

My Grade: C
The Blurb:
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.

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