Review by: Mark Palm
I imagine that somewhere out there is a reader who is thinking that if I say one more thing about Sherlock Homes he (or she) is going to stuff a sock down my throat...but...
Fatal Inquiry by Will Thomas begs to be compared to the work of Arthur Conan Doyle. It is the story of an Inquiry Agent, much like a private detective with some important differences, named Cyrus Barker, and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, a young Welshman. It is set in Victorian London. Barker is idiosyncratic character, if not eccentric. A master of oriental martial arts, with extensive ties throughout London, in places both high and low, and an arch-enemy who is brilliant and deadly, one Sebastian Nightwine.
You don't have to be a Baker Street Irregular to see the similarities, but I am more than happy to tell you all of that is superficial. Barker and Llyewelyn are not Holmes and Watson. Mr. Thomas is working in familiar territory but the differences in his work makes it quite clear that he is his own writer, and Fatal Inquiry is a taut and tense work of detective fiction.
The story starts when Barker and Llewelyn learn that the aforesaid villain, Captain Sebastian Nightwine is returning to London after a prolonged absence. He and Barker have been enemies for most of their adult lives , starting back when Nightwine arranged the death of Barker's brother during the Taiping rebellion. Apparently even a metropolis like London isn't big enough for the both of them because they immediately begin trying to arrange the others downfall, with the first battle going to Nightwine, as he frames Barker for murder, forcing him and Llewelyn do go underground and battle to uncover the truth, and Nightwine's deadly plans while trying to clear Barker's name.
The story takes off like a racehorse with a rocket on its ass from the word go, as the two Inquiry Agents use all of their considerable guile and physical prowess to unravel a complicated and nefarious plot by Nightwine that would essentially set him up as a veritable emperor in Tibet using English soldiers and money to get the job done. There are a ton of vivid characters, some from history, and a mysterious assassin that charmed this readers pants off. The outcome is always in doubt, and Mr. Thomas keeps the screws on tight, never letting you relax for a second. The only canard I have is the title, which is apt, but sounds like an awful Michael Douglas straight-to-video thriller that nobody remembers. As I have said before more than once, forget the title, and read the book.