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Old Scores by Will Thomas

Published by St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books on October 3, 2017

After showing his garden to the Japanese ambassador, Cyrus Barker disappears for a few hours. Thomas Llewellyn searches for him and is promptly arrested. He discovers that Barker was arrested earlier for shooting the ambassador through an open window at the embassy. Llewellyn, having committed no provable crime, is released, but Special Branch thinks it has a case against Barker. It turns out that Barker does, in fact, have a motive, if he were the type to settle old scores with a pistol.

Barker’s ward, a young Chinese woman who has married a man with questionable business enterprises, is also peripherally involved with the ambassador’s death. There is no shortage of other suspects, including the Ambassador’s bodyguards (who were selected by the Japanese military), local Chinese criminals, and officials of the British Foreign Office. Identifying the true killer becomes the reader’s mission.

Old Scores delves into Barker’s past, revealing secrets about the time he spent in Japan (hint: there is a reason Barker knows so much about traditions of the samurai). The novel starts as a mystery but by the end, it is Barker’s story. The philosophical question Will Thomas poses is whether it is better to settle old scores or to promote the healing of old wounds by understanding the motivations of those who have wronged us.

The story has some poignant moments. As usual, Will Thomas mixes action and humor into the plot (the humor primarily stems from Llewellyn’s ongoing frustration with Barker), but the glimpse into Barker’s past gives Old Scores more depth than some other entries in a series that has always been surprisingly entertaining. I’m not generally a fan of Sherlock Holmes clones, but Will Thomas tells his stories in a distinctive voice that I have grown to appreciate.


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