A villain from his past almost destroys the life of a Victorian private enquiry agent.
Cyrus Barker first made the acquaintance of Sebastian Nightwine when Cyrus was growing up in China. Disguised as Chinese, Cyrus became involved in the Taiping Rebellion back when Nightwine was a British officer with a reputation for butchery. Cyrus is sure Nightwine deliberately got his newly arrived brother killed in battle. Now, Nightwine’s maps of a hidden Tibetan kingdom he can claim for Great Britain have made him the darling of the Foreign Office. He’s already worked his connections to get Cyrus warned off, knowing that when Cyrus hears he's in London he'll do everything he can to thwart the scheme. Soon enough, Cyrus and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, are on the run, falsely accused of murder, with prices on their heads. Luckily, Cyrus has many friends and bolt-holes he can use while he tries to get proof that Nightwine is behind a conspiracy to bilk the Foreign Office out of large sums of money. But he and Thomas are chivvied from place to place as both Nightwine’s minions and Scotland Yard close in on them. Along the way, Thomas has become enamored of Sofia Ilyanova, Nightwine’s bastard daughter by a Russian countess. She claims to despise her father yet does his bidding, although she does save Thomas’ life after her father savagely beats him. As Nightwine continues to have Cyrus’ friends killed and his house and office broken into, it seems certain that their battle will come down to a face-to-face encounter in which the odds are stacked against Cyrus.
Cyrus’ sixth (The Black Hand, 2008, etc.) is a page-turner in which a more physically imposing Holmes and a more intellectual Watson dominate a thrilling but less-than-mysterious tale.