Hell Bay (Barker & Llewelyn)
by Will Thomas
Cover Artist: Stephen Mulcahey / Arcangel Images
Review by Mel Jacob
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250077950
Date: 25 October 2016 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The eighth Victorian mystery in the Barker and Llewelyn series of novels by Will Thomas pits Barker and Llewelyn against a murderer intent on killing everyone on a small Scilly island off of Land's End, Cornwall. Barker accepts an assignment to guard a French Ambassador from an assassin during a house party on a remote island, however, the host, Barker's employer is killed and others are endangered.
Lord Hargrave, a British civil servant, engages Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn, his assistant, to provide security for the French Ambassador as he and Lord Hargrave complete the details of a treaty between France and England, a treaty other world powers do not want. The secret negotiations are to be conducted at a house party in a remote location ostensibly to arrange for engagement of Hargrave's heir and his daughter.
Barker is sort of a Victorian James Bond. His long-term friend Mrs. Ashleigh, a close friend of Lord Hargrave's wife, and Barker attend as a couple. Llewelyn takes on the role initially of Barker's valet and later as his assistant.
The house party guests take a ferry to the remote island and the site of the party, Godolphin House, was the sole habitation. The French Ambassador arrives separately on a French vessel. He is the godfather of one of Hargrave's children which gives him an excuse for being present. His security officer, Delacroix, was to remain aboard the French vessel which had brought the ambassador to the island.
After dinner, the first evening, a sniper shot and killed Lord Hargrave. The guests at once form a party to hunt the killer but are not successful. While searching, Barker and Llewelyn find Delacroix dead and the French vessel gone. The lighthouse is disabled, the keeper killed, and the signal flag pole is damaged prohibiting communication with the outside world.
One by one the deaths continue as Barker struggles to solve the murders. Both and he and Llewelyn acquire injuries while pursuing the killer.
Thomas, an accomplished writer, keeps the action building as the guests wonder which of them will be next. Barker is observed by Llewelyn and the story told primarily through the latter's eyes. Believable characters with a variety of quirks hold the reader's interest. Some reveal unsuspected roles and relationships. Close encounters with the killer keep the action moving. Most readers will find the identity of the killer a surprise.