Thomas, Will 1958-
Thomas, Will 1958-
Born May 12, 1958; married; wife's name Julia; children: two. Hobbies and other interests: Martial arts, railway modeling.
Home—OK. E-mail—[email protected]
Novelist, librarian, and Internet instructor; former actor.
Some Danger Involved, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2004.
To Kingdom Come, Touchstone (New York, NY), 2005.
The Limehouse Text, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2006.
The Hellfire Conspiracy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2007.
The Black Hand, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2008.
Contributor of short fiction to periodicals, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine.
A professional librarian, Will Thomas applied his Internet research skills and writing talent to produce Some Danger Involved, a mystery set in his favorite historical era, Victorian England. The story concerns a young Welshman named Thomas Llewelyn who answers an ad for an assistant from an enquiry agent, or private investigator, named Cyrus Barker. After surviving a job interview that includes dodging a knife Barker throws at his chest, Llewelyn is taken on and becomes the chronicler of Barker's cases. While comparisons to famous fictional sleuths Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are inevitable, "this team is clearly different, and their journey into the London ghettoes is fast-paced, vividly alive, and filled with action," noted Harriet Klausner in a review of Some Danger Involved for AllReaders.com.
In "the first of what will hopefully be a long-running series," according to Bookreporter.com contributor Joe Hartlaub, Barker is called in by London's Jewish community when a rabbinical student is found crucified. Anti-Semitism is rife throughout London, and the leaders of the Jewish community, mainly refugees from Eastern Europe, are fearful that a pogrom is starting in their new homeland. As Barker and Llewelyn chase clues and suspects through synagogues and churches, they discover an underworld of virulent hate groups hiding under the mantel of Christianity. "The exploration of the chasm between Christians and Jews, the details of Jewish customs, and the vivid period ambience lend philosophical depth" to the novel, according to Booklist reviewer Jennifer Baker. In addition to the Jewish ghetto, the sleuths find themselves in other exotic neighborhoods, and "the author's lively, learned tour of the various foreign enclaves of 19th-century London is notably contemporary," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In addition to an intriguing setting, Thomas provides interesting characters, including his two protagonists. Llewelyn is an Oxford student, but he is also an alumnus of Oxford Prison, where he was once wrongly incarcerated. Barker is an eccentric who combines the knowledge of a biblical scholar with the skills of a martial artist. While now a wealthy gentleman, he actually endured a difficult, hardscrabble childhood and worked at various positions that included a stint as a clipper-ship captain. According to Tim Hoke in The Green Man Review: "The real interest here is neither the rough and tumble … [nor] the search for a murderer, but rather Llewelyn's quest to learn about his employer." Thomas also provides some interesting minor characters, including Barker's sarcastic butler, who is a mean shot, and a French chef who also cultivates a taste for sabotage. The victim also turns out to be a bit of a puzzle. An intelligent and attractive young man, he seems to have consciously sought to marginalize himself even within London's embattled Jewish community. The result is "an auspicious start for Thomas's planned series and should find a ready audience among fans of historical mystery," concluded The Mystery Reader contributor Jessica Plonka.
In To Kingdom Come, the next book in Thomas's series, Barker and Llewelyn attempt to calm a brewing situation between the British Home Office and the Irish Republican Brotherhood before things spiral out of control. Scotland Yard has already been bombed, and the two set out to go undercover in order to determine the culprits and prevent their next plot. Jennifer Baker, in a review for Booklist, called the book "intense and insightful." Library Journal contributor Michele Leber found the work "expertly researched and skillfully plotted, with satisfying amounts of emotion."
Thomas continues his series with The Limehouse Text. In this installment, we revisit the earlier death of Barker's previous assistant, Quong, when Barker finally redeems the pawn ticket that Quong left behind with his things. He retrieves a rare Chinese book that speaks of very specialized and lethal martial arts moves, and which leads him into the dark underbelly of London's Chinatown district. Booklist reviewer Allison Block remarked: "A wholly satisfying twist ends this outstanding entry in what is fast becoming one of the genre's best historical-mystery series."
The Hellfire Conspiracy has Barker and Llewelyn searching for the twelve-year-old daughter of a guardsman called Major DeVere. DeVere's child has disappeared and he suspects white slavers. The detectives, however, know that there has been a serial killer walking the streets and preying on children. When Barker receives a note with a taunting rhyme in it regarding the crime, the case becomes more complicated, and it soon becomes clear that London's elite, perhaps members of the famous Hellfire Club, may be involved. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews wrote: "Thomas … cleverly develops his characters' personalities while maintaining his marvelously wrought descriptions of a bygone era."
Thomas told CA: "Of course, I was influenced by Doyle, but I also studied Hardy, George Gissing, and George MacDonald while writing Some Danger Involved. Since my novels often feature real characters, I study their writings and history.
"Though I use a computer quite often, I write in longhand, frequently outside on my porch, with a pipe between my teeth. Staring into the clouds helps transport me back to 1884.
"I first became interested in writing when my wife, Julia, was pregnant with our first child. I was an actor, and was frequently gone most nights at performances and rehearsals. I needed to find a creative outlet that didn't take me away from home so often. Writing became that outlet."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 1, 2004, Jennifer Baker, review of Some Danger Involved, p. 1524; March 15, 2005, Jennifer Baker, review of To Kingdom Come, p. 1271; May 1, 2006, Allison Block, review of The Limehouse Text, p. 40.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2004, review of Some Danger Involved, p. 159; April 15, 2007, review of The Hellfire Conspiracy.
Library Journal, May 1, 2004, Michele Leber, review of Some Danger Involved, p. 145; April 15, 2005, Michele Leber, review of To Kingdom Come, p. 80.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 2004, review of Some Danger Involved, p. 65.
AllReaders.com,http://www.allreaders.com/ (January 17, 2008), Harriet Klausner, review of Some Danger Involved.
Bookreporter.com,http://www.bookreporter.com/ (January 17, 2008), Joe Hartlaub, review of Some Danger Involved.
Green Man Review,http://www.greenmanreview.com/ (January 17, 2008), Tim Hoke, review of Some Danger Involved.
Mystery Reader,http://www.themysteryreader.com (January 17, 2008), Jessica Plonka, review of Some Danger Involved.
Roundtable Reviews Online,http://www.roundtablereviews.com/ (June, 2004), Tracy Farnsworth, interview with Thomas.
Will Thomas Home Page,http://www.willthomasauthor.com (January 17, 2008).