Synopses & Reviews
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.
Brimming with wit and unforgettable characters, and steeped in authentic period detail, Some Danger Involved is a captivating page-turner that introduces an equally captivating duo while signaling the start of an exciting career for Will Thomas.
"Modeled after the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but with a verve all its own, this debut mystery introduces a likable pair of sleuths and explores the Jewish quarter of Victorian London. Fresh, self-effacing Thomas Llewelyn is a plucky lad down on his luck (he was booted out of Oxford and served eight months in prison for petty theft) when he becomes the unlikely assistant to idiosyncratic Cyrus Barker, a patently Holmesian private detective with an enigmatic background in China. Hardly has Llewelyn settled into his new quarters in his employer's residence when he is called upon to assist Barker in an investigation of the crucifixion death of a young Jewish scholar. The convoluted tale leads through the tightly circumscribed Jewish ghetto, as it appears that the murder may be the overture to a pogrom by vicious anti-Semitic factions. Barker's methods ('You see, I try to throw a web over London and sit like a spider in the midst of it all, my fingers on the strands') and Thomas's tone ('I must admit, sir,' I confessed, 'that I doubted you a little') may owe much to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but the author's lively, learned tour of the various foreign enclaves of 19th-century London is notably contemporary. Besides initiating Llewelyn into the rigors of detective work, Barker introduces his young associate to a number of exotic cuisines, Chinese and Italian among them. Such period curiosities and the growing friendship between Llewelyn and Barker are the chief delights of this engaging novel. Agent, Maria Carvainis. (June) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A story full of fascinating Jewish atmosphere and authenticity set in Victorian London. An exciting page-turner with two original detectives. I look forward to their next adventure!" Anne Perry New York Times bestselling author of No Graves As Yet and The Whitechapel Conspiracy
"The danger involved in beginning Some Danger Involved at bedtime is missing a night's sleep. Once Thomas's colorful characters and vivid story grab hold, they don't let go. A thoroughly entertaining read." Sandra Brown New York Times bestselling author of Hello, Darkness
"Thomas' storytelling is top-notch, generously filled with humor and attention to detail. He brings to life a London roiling with secret leagues, deadly organizations and hidden clubs and teaches Llewelyn and us to love it." Detroit Free Press
"More tales of Barker and Llewelyn are apparently planned; more would be most welcomed. Recommended, regardless of whether or not you're a fan of Holmes and Watson." Bookreporter.com
About the Author
Will Thomas is the author of Some Danger Involved, the first novel featuring Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn. His writing has appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and in publications of various Sherlock Holmes societies. He lives with his family in Oklahoma.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Guide
1. To what does the title refer? Who is narrating? Look at the language in the opening paragraphs. What does it tell you about the narrator? What are some of the specifics about the narrator's life up to his employment with Barker? Is he a reliable narrator? Why?
2. How does Some Danger Involved hook you as a reader? Share your response to the book's language and pace and details, and its characters. When does the story take place? Share some examples of how Will Thomas uses language and other sign-posts -- such as people, items, customs -- to reveal this.
3. In Chapter 2, what does Llewelyn mean when he tells Barker he is "playing Virgil to my Dante"? Does this foreshadow anything? If so, what? Recount what happens to Llewelyn in Chapter 2. What do we learn about Barker? What does Barker see in Llewelyn?
4. Looking at Chapter 3, read the titles of some of the books Barker lends Llewelyn. Why these titles in particular? What do these have to do with their work, or their lives? Do the titles of these books provide any clues to the story that will come?
5. Share your opinions about Barker. Describe him physically. Thinking about his habits, what kind of person is he? Does he remind you of any other literary Private Investigator? If so, who, and why? What do we really know about him?
6. At the end of Chapter 6, what does Llewelyn tell us that "barker" means? Does this fit with the character? Discuss the other character names. How does the author supply information about the characters by the names he chooses for them?
7. Given the story's historic setting, how does author Will Thomas incorporate England's class system? Consider Barker's staff. Why does the author choose the name Jacob Maccabee for his butler? Why, or why not, is a Jewish butler appropriate for this story?
8. Why does he use the struggles of the Jewish people here? What is he telling us? What is the role of anti-semitism in the book? How effective is it for this story?
9. In Chapter 13, look at the interview Barker conducts with Rev. Painsley. Share your reaction to what Painsley is saying about the Jews.
10. Why did you believe Llewelyn was shot at in Chapter 14? Did you have any clue as to why he would be a target? Did you realize that this was a ruse to throw off the investigation?
11. Share your reactions to Professor Rushford's speech on eugenics. Do you think this is still a prevailing opinion in some quarters? Why? What is the purpose of holding and espousing such an opinion? Discuss whether or not eugenics is a natural phenomenon (like Darwinism) or a fabricated one, and why.
12. Looking at Chapter 17, share how Llewelyn describes Nightwine when he first sees him. Describe Sebastian Nightwine. What is his residence like? What is his role in the story?
13. How did you react to Racket being the bad guy? How does Will Thomas succeed in surprising the reader with Racket's true identity? Why does Racket crucify the young scholar, and then attempt to crucify Llewelyn?
14. Looking back on the fact that Racket was always nearby with his carriage, do you think this was a subtle or not so subtle clue that he was the murderer? Share whether or not anything gave away the fact that Racket is not just a coachman.
15. Do you think there is much more to learn about Barker and Llewelyn? Discuss how Will Thomas leaves room for a sequel, and what you might like to see this pair doing next.