In the latest adventure in what is "fast becoming one of the genre's best historical-mystery series" (Booklist), roughhewn private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his assistant Thomas Llewelyn must track down London's first serial killer.
When Barker and Llewelyn are hired to find a girl from the upper classes who has gone missing in the East End, they assume her kidnapping is the work of white slavers. But when they discover five girls have been murdered in Bethnal Green, taunting letters begin to arrive in Craig's Court from a killer calling himself Mr. Miacca.
Barker fears that Miacca might be part of the Hellfire Club, a group of powerful, hedonistic aristocrats performing Satanic rituals. He must track the fiend to his hideout, while Llewelyn confronts the man who put him in prison.
Dodging muckrakers, navigating the murky Thames under cover of darkness, and infiltrating London's most powerful secret society, The Hellfire Conspiracy is another wild ride that "brings to life a London roiling with secret leagues, deadly organizations, and hidden clubs" (Ron Bernas, Detroit Free Press).
At the start of Thomas's well-crafted fourth Barker and Llewelyn mystery to feature a London detective duo clearly modeled on Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson (after 2006's The Limehouse Text), a distraught guardsman, Major DeVere, consults Cyrus Barker, a smugly intellectual private enquiry agent, and his young apprentice, ex-con Thomas Llewelyn. The major's 12-year-old daughter has disappeared, and DeVere fears she has fallen victim to white slavers, though the sleuths suspect a serial killer may be at work. The plot thickens when Barker receives a taunting letter in rhyme signed Mr. Miacca, a child-eating bogeyman from a bedtime story. Scotland Yard hampers the investigation in a possible coverup of some upper-class depravities. The taut plotting, interesting variations on familiar themes and incorporation of some of the political issues of the day elevate the series above most pastiches, though veteran mystery readers won't be too surprised at the killer's identity.