Victorian sleuths Barker and Llewelyn battle the fighting (mad) Irish.
Enraged Irish dissidents want Home Rule, and they’re prepared to obliterate half of London to make their point. They start with the newly minted Special Irish Branch, its headquarters in Scotland Yard reduced to rubble by an “infernal device.” Clearly, the Irish Republican Brotherhood is responsible, but that hardly gets to the heart of the matter, since the IRB is a tower of fractious factions. How to zero in on the Scotland Yard dynamiters? Cyrus Barker, England’s preeminent “enquiry agent”—don’t call him detective—volunteers to go undercover. Accompanying him is his young assistant Thomas Llewelyn, late of Oxford University and Oxford Prison, the second on a bum rap. Barker poses as Johannes van Rhyn, internationally recognized bombardier; Llewelyn is disguised as one Thomas Penrith. Because bomb-making turns out to be a skill desperately needed and insufficiently mastered by the terrorists, the intrepid pair easily penetrates their defenses. Along the way, Thomas provides glimpses of Charles Parnell and a lovesick William Butler Yeats. More to the point, however, is the role played by a beautiful female dissident, a femme fatale whose effect on Thomas is nearly lethal in more ways than one.
As in the sleuths’ debut (Some Danger Involved, 2004), stick figures speak wooden dialogue amid beautifully rendered period settings.