The Limehouse Text
The adventures of Thomas Llewelyn, assistant to Victorian-era “enquiry agent” (private detective) Cyrus Barker, continue with a search through London’s Chinese district of Limehouse for a stolen martial arts book. The Holmes and Watson-like duo struggle with government interference as they enter a part of London that appears more Imperial Chinese than a section of the seat of British power. Barker, as always, possesses insights and knowledge which are denied to the always-keen Llewelyn.
Thomas transports the reader to the setting an impressive grasp of the times and social life and customs. His description of Chinese society in London is especially vivid and illustrates the level of his research and his keen attention to detail. This London is radically different than the one found in other novels set in the timeframe. In many ways, this is the most interesting aspect of Thomas’s writing. Historical novels promise to deliver the reader to a long dead world but many (most?) fail in that goal. The London of Chinese immigrants and their relationships with the center of British imperial power is something I have never encountered before. The question of the leading characters being Holmes and Watson clones takes second place compared to this new and exciting London.