An atmospheric debut novel set on the gritty streets of Victorian London, Some Danger Involved introduces detective Cyrus Barker and his apprentice, Thomas Llewelyn, as they work to solve the gruesome murder of a young scholar.
When a student bearing a striking resemblance to artists’ renderings of Jesus Christ is found murdered — by crucifixion — in London’s Jewish ghetto, 19th-century private detective Barker must hire an assistant to help him solve the sinister case. Out of all who answer an ad for a position with “some danger involved,” the eccentric and enigmatic Barker chooses downtrodden Llewelyn, a gutsy young man whose murky past includes recent stints at both an Oxford college and an Oxford prison.
As Llewelyn learns the ropes of his position, he is drawn deeper and deeper into Barker’s peculiar world of vigilante detective work, as well as the dark heart of London’s teeming underworld. Together they pass through chophouses, stables, and clandestine tea rooms, tangling with the early Italian mafia, a mad professor of eugenics, and other shadowy figures, inching ever closer to the shocking truth behind the murder.
I picked up this audiobook from my library because I was in dire need of a mystery and one set in Victorian London seemed right up my alley at the time. I was honestly expecting a mystery that felt like a Sherlock Holmes retake with different characters. That said, I was pleasantly surprised.
Barker doesn’t like to be called a private detective, but that is exactly what he is. He solves crimes from the more seedier parts of London and assists the police when it comes to a group of people that don’t necessarily trust the police completely. In the case of this specific book, Barker and his newly hired aide Llewellyn (our narrator) are assigned to help solve the murder of a Jewish man who looks like Jesus Christ.
What I liked about this book is that it addressed the relations of the British Empire with the minorities of the nation, such as the Jewish community or the Asian immigrants. Barker is heavily influenced by the Japanese culture and it shows in his day to day practices as well as the landscaping of his home. It is like this character embraces the downtrodden and misunderstood.
Which is actually further addressed in him hiring Llewellyn.
Llewellyn is not only our narrator, but he is a Welshman who has had a rather rough life. At first you think that he may be a Watson sort of character, and he sort of is, but there is a quality to Llewellyn that serves as a more modern voice for the reader. You can see the mystery unfold through his eyes and see just how interesting Barker is as a character.
What I really liked about the book was the discussion about religion. It talked about the practices of that specific grouping of Jewish people as well as the differences between the cultures and religions. It was a discussion that I could see being in the past as well as being relevant today.
No, this is not a Sherlockian type of mystery with a Sherlockian type of detective. Barker seems to deal more with the seedier part of town and helps the people who are less likely to have the money. If the two detectives were in the pub together, you would see that Sherlock’s clientele are more well-off and Barker takes care of the rest.
That said, this book was filled with action and I did like the characters. I do plan on continuing the series and am glad that the next few books happen to be in audio in my library. This isn’t bad for a beginner to a series and I can’t wait to see what else comes up.
Final rating: 4/5