In their 8th outing, London based enquiry agent Cyrus Barker & sidekick Thomas Llewelyn end up stranded on a remote island at the mercy of a killer. It was supposed to be a covert opportunity to further British-French politics disguised as a week long get together at the manor of Lord Hargrave.
He engaged Barker & Llewelyn to provide security but it’s not going so well.
Day one sees the first murder & guests continue to drop like flies as they’re forced to hunker down inside while a killer roams the island. They’re a disparate group & it’s inevitable that days of confinement plus rising tension will eventually lead to them eying each other with suspicion & fear.
The setting makes for a traditional drawing room mystery a la Agatha Christie. As the story progresses, it becomes clear some of these people are not who they seem as Barker & Llewelyn gradually uncover old family secrets & private grudges. As claustrophobia & paranoia set in, the relationships between upper crust & servants quickly evolves into a cross between “And Then There Were None” & “Lord of the Flies”.
I’m a big fan of this series but for me, this instalment lacked a couple of things that made other books so enjoyable. I missed the mean streets of Victorian London which provided a vibrant setting for previous cases. Descriptions of gas lit back alleys & characters ranging from lords to street urchins added to the tension that brought those stories to life. It also lacks the witty humour that made for great dialogue between the 2 MC’s. This is a more sober book & I missed the entertainment usually provided by Barker’s chef & valet.
As always, it’s a matter of taste & if you’re a fan of closed room mysteries like those featuring Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot, this is for you.