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Hell Bay by Will Thomas
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Fun! Reminds me of Robert McCammon's swashbuckling historical thrillers. I was sorry to see several typos and a couple of misused words that the author's editor didn't catch. I hate when that happens—throws me right out of the story. Enjoyed this one nonetheless. ( )
  NatalieSW | Feb 8, 2017 |
This is a well-plotted suspense story. It's set in 1890 or so on an small island estate off the shore of Cornwall in southern England. A negotiating session between England and France is held under the guise of a family meeting. The guests quickly become a target for a sniper and several are killed. The hunt for the killer occupies most of the book.

The protagonists are a pair of "enquiry agents", Messrs Barker & Llewelyn, who muddle through in typical British fashion. They are an odd pair who have a history together which is covered in previous books in the series, none of which I have read. There are many annoying references to the characters' past cases and adventures which assume the reader knows about them when they may not. Other authors manage to address this and perhaps this author could deal with this better in the future. I have however no plans to read others in the series out of a need to explore their prior exploits. ( )
  BrianEWilliams | Jan 8, 2017 |
Very good book. Waiting for more. ( )
  Philip100 | Nov 6, 2016 |
I found it quite refreshing to have Barker and Llewelyn trade their usual London haunts for a country house on a remote island in the Scillys. Hell Bay is Will Thomas's tribute to Agatha Christie. Trapping a group of people on a remote island and then killing them off one by one has definite overtones of Christie's And Then There Were None.

How well does the author do with a locked room (island) mystery? Very well indeed. I didn't have a clue who the killer was. All I could do was settle down, start learning about each one of the guests, observing their behaviors... and be thankful that there was no way I would wind up as one of the corpses.

Although very familiar with her stories, I am not an Agatha Christie fan, so I do not know how a fan would react to this book. I am, however, a Barker and Llewelyn fan, and it was a real treat to take these two out of their element and have them solve an extremely complicated and dangerous mystery on their own. Llewelyn's mystery-solving acumen grows with each new book, and Barker-- who has always been quite the iconoclast-- fits in rather well with the rich and those pesky government types. Who would have thought? I can't wait to see what these two do next! ( )
  cathyskye | Oct 12, 2016 |
It's funny – I didn't realize till I took a look at the other books in this series that I had requested a sample of the first book, "Some Danger Involved" some time ago. I never bought it. I'm glad now.

This started out rather well. I always begin a book with the expectation of giving it at least four stars, and mentally adjust accordingly, and the prologue was darkly entertaining. Those expectations seemed pretty safe.

Before long, though, issues with the writing began to crop up.

The idea is that the great and inscrutable Barker is called in as security for a French ambassador at a secret meeting on an island in the Scillies; this is being camouflaged by a house party. Barker doesn't like house parties or bodyguard work. I know this, better than perhaps anything else, because I was told so many, many times – between his own grumbling and the main character/narrator's slightly gleeful commentary, it felt like it was reiterated at least a dozen times. Barker tries to wiggle out of it by suggesting a security force -

“I might make a recommendation to you, it would be to hire a full detail of guards, even if they are not needed. There is too much that could go wrong.”
“The French ambassador insists upon privacy. He wishes to come and see how his favorite goddaughter is doing, and has no desire to see the island full of British men in uniforms.”
“How astute is he? Would he notice a few extra footmen or undergardeners?”
“Too astute to trick so easily.”


So, basically, the ambassador is a moron. This is borne out by the events of the book, in which the island equivalent of a country house party disintegrates into, basically, Agatha Christie's [book:Ten Little Indians], and the ambassador becomes remarkably sulky over taking even basic precautions. He does bring an extra special French James Bond, Delacroix, with him – but Delacroix comes onto the island well after the ambassador, has a quick chat with Barker – and then leaves. He's a foodie, you see, and he wants to get back to the boat and into the galley. I'm still struggling to understand how someone can be an effective bodyguard when not even on the same land mass. Of course, when the bad guy kills him he has an even harder job being any kind of bodyguard. It's kind of hilarious when the ambassador insists on heaping praise on him for the rest of the book, considering he did nothing but die en route to a fish dinner.

What really baffled me about this was that the author then has the ambassador commenting that the island was "too large … to be watched over by just two men." Well … yeah.

The main character/narrator, Thomas Llewelyn, began to annoy me very early on. "I regarded the two young women I was warned against, and found them a trifle wanting." One reason for the house party, you see, is to marry off the young scion(s) of the house, and Llewelyn had best not interfere with that.

The writing was not terrible (though it does need a good editor to deal with punctuation and homonym errors – a gun shot is not a "rapport", one does not "stare" an opinion, one does not "fair" better or worse, and when one cannot "bare" to discuss something I begin to lose my grip on my temper) - this is why it gets two stars instead of the one I kind of want to give it. But it did try too hard in places, hammering a point home when a softer touch would have been more than sufficient. And, not to be repetitive, the author has a tendency to repeat himself.

As mentioned (oh no, the repetition is contagious!), people suddenly start getting picked off one by one. I don't know if the writer was aiming for irony, or trying to create a poignant situation for the Great Hero Barker and his sidekick Llewelyn, or simply wanted to try his own hand at Ten Little Indians, but it was in truth just sad to read on the one hand Llewelyn's worshipful tributes to his boss, and on the other hand see person after person die on his watch.

"I was hired as security for this event."
…"You’re not doing very well at it, in my opinion."

I wouldn't hire the guy.

And if someone could explain to me why it was only after the violence begins that Llewelyn - hired as security - hurries off to get his gun, I'd … never mind. Not interested. Especially after he later, in the middle of things, curses himself for leaving his revolver in his room. Really? Someone could pop out of any corner or hedge at any moment to try to kill you or, more importantly, one of the people you were hired to protect, and you're unarmed? Again? I hope these idiots didn't get paid.

Once I started to dislike the main characters and the story I began to poke at all the holes in the writing, which aren't really even worth the space. Except I found it puzzling that it wasn't till the 21% mark that Barker is described as a Scotsman; I would have thought that if that was important it would have come out earlier. I suppose I should be grateful that dialogue in a brogue is kept to a minimum. Oh, and the whole episode with Llewelyn and a cohort trying to close shutters was silly from beginning to end; he as narrator comments that he made a tempting target against the light, and fails to come to the realization that it might be clever to put out said light. He encounters all sorts of difficulty with getting the shutters secured, and I was almost brought to the point of yelling at the book for him to go get the damned butler who might have a clue.

The killer besieging the house seems, according to Barker's hypothesis, to have a checklist of victims, and is killing in order. Which means that he passes up opportunities to kill Llewelyn and others – despite the fact that it's remarkably stupid not to reduce the number of defenders.

The survivors in the house turn against Barker, somehow losing faith in his abilities after several people die. So he moves into the rooms formerly occupied by his now-deceased employer, the lord of the manor. He had some kind of reason for this, but the audacity of it, added to the questionable decision to have his girlfriend in the adjoining room, did not go down well with me or with the other survivors.

There's more – there's so much more – like:
"The Sharps is a long-distance rifle, known for its accuracy … [several pages later] … No, the Sharps is not that accurate" … [several pages later] … "he’s carrying what I might consider the deadliest weapon on the planet."

The same thing happens with the food provided by the cook. It's bland; it's wonderful; it's boring; it's delicious.

I made many more notes and highlights on my Kindle, but there's really no point in continuing to beat this dead horse. I managed to finish the book, but what started out with me interested and intrigued ended with me frustrated and relieved to be done.

Also, "Hell Bay"? It's a cool name - but it has very little to do with the plot.

The usual disclaimer: I received this book via Netgalley for review. ( )
  Stewartry | Sep 27, 2016 |
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To my sisters, Sherry and Denise, who enjoy mysteries as much as I do
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Harold Throgmorton's face was florid.
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"At the request of Her Majesty's government, private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker agrees to take on his least favorite kind of assignment--he's to provide security for a secret conference with the French government. The conference is to take place on the private estate of Lord Hargrave on a remote island off the coast of Cornwall. The goal of the conference is the negotiation of a new treaty with France. The cover story for the gathering is a house party--an attempt to introduce Lord Hargrave's two unmarried sons to potential mates. But shortly after the parties land at the island, Lord Hargrave is killed by a sniper shot, and the French ambassador's head of security is found stabbed to death. The only means of egress from the island--a boat--has been sent away, and the means of signaling for help has been destroyed. Trapped in a manor house with no way of escape, Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, must uncover which among them is the killer before the next victim falls"--… (more)

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