The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3) [NOOK Book]

Overview

In The Limehouse Text, Barker and Llewelyn discover a pawn ticket among the effects of Barker's late assistant, leading them to London's Chinese district, Limehouse. There they retrieve an innocent-looking book that proves to be a rare and secret text stolen from a Nanking monastery. When they take it to Ho, Barker's favorite restaurateur, for inspection, they discover that it contains lethal martial arts techniques forbidden to the West. With the political situation between the British Empire and Imperial China ...
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The Limehouse Text (Barker & Llewelyn Series #3)

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Overview

In The Limehouse Text, Barker and Llewelyn discover a pawn ticket among the effects of Barker's late assistant, leading them to London's Chinese district, Limehouse. There they retrieve an innocent-looking book that proves to be a rare and secret text stolen from a Nanking monastery. When they take it to Ho, Barker's favorite restaurateur, for inspection, they discover that it contains lethal martial arts techniques forbidden to the West. With the political situation between the British Empire and Imperial China already precarious, the duo must safeguard the text from a snarl of suspects with conflicting interests -- and track down a killer intent upon gaining the secret knowledge.

Prowling through an underworld of opium dens, back-room blood sports, and sailors' penny hangs while avoiding the wrath of the district's powerful warlord, Mr. K'ing, Barker and Llewelyn take readers on a perilous tour through the mean streets of turn-of-the-century London.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Convincing period detail and memorable characters lift Thomas's fast and furious third Victorian whodunit (after 2005's To Kingdom Come) to feature enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his callow assistant, Thomas Llewelyn. A pawn ticket found among the effects of Barker's previous sidekick, Quong, leads the pair to Limehouse, London's Chinatown, where they discover an ancient Chinese book on martial arts. A number of parties seek the book, including someone willing to kill to gain its secrets. Barker draws on his encyclopedic knowledge of the London underworld and his extensive network of allies to advance the investigation. While the murderer's identity won't surprise many, and Barker's talents, which include mastery of the martial arts, border on the superhuman, Sherlock Holmes fans in particular will be pleased by how well Thomas evokes the Baker Street sleuth and the spirit of Conan Doyle's stories. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743293334
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 7/5/2006
  • Series: Barker & Llewelyn Series , #3
  • Sold by: SIMON & SCHUSTER
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 65,742
  • File size: 388 KB

Meet the Author

Will Thomas is the author of Some Danger Involved, the first novel featuring Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn, and now a Barry and Shamus Award nominee. He lives with his family in Oklahoma.
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Read an Excerpt

The Limehouse Text

A Novel
By Will Thomas

Touchstone

Copyright © 2006 Will Thomas
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0743273346

Prologue

I was the lone Occidental in a room full of Chinamen, and all of them were talking at once. On either side of me, they were arguing with one another, chanting in unison, or beating the wooden floor with their rope-soled shoes. There was a good deal of wagering going on, with both English pounds and Chinese taels changing hands quickly. Despite the heat of such activity, there was a chill in the room as the smoky breath from all of us condensed overhead in a fog amid the old gray timbers of the quayside warehouse. I pulled my coat closer about me and wished I were at home in my room with my feet on the fender in front of a good fire, where any sane person would be on a dreary February evening, while the chant continued to boom in my ears.

"Shi Shi Ji! Shi Shi Ji! Shi Shi Ji!"

As luck would have it, they were chanting one of the few Mandarin phrases I recognized: the name my employer, Cyrus Barker, was known by among the Chinese. Where he was at the moment I couldn't say, but he would be coming along shortly, of that I was certain. A hundred or more Chinamen were massed impatiently around this sunken ring I'm sure Scotland Yard would be very interested to know about, and there was to be a fight soon. I seriously doubtedwhether anyone besides myself here had ever heard of the Marquis of Queensberry rules.

There was movement in the ring, and I leaned forward with a sudden sick feeling in my stomach, but it was only a troupe of Chinese acrobats. A girl of fourteen balanced her twin sister upright, head to head, with but a fold of cloth between them, and a fellow flopped about the ring on his stomach like a seal, but their efforts were jeered at by the audience. I might have been entertained by their performance myself under other circumstances, but I had not come here to be entertained. Shortly, my employer would be coming into that ring to fight for his life or, rather, both our lives.

I brushed aside Asians attempting to sell me treats of dried squid and unidentifiable meat on wooden skewers, trying to concentrate on the matter at hand. I looked about the room at the faces of the three men I knew. Old Quong, father of my employer's late assistant, had his hands on the rail in front of the pit and was watching the acrobats anxiously. Jimmy Woo, an interpreter for the Asiatic Aid Society, was absently chewing on his knuckle through his glove, in danger of gnawing a hole in the silk. Ho, one of Barker's closest friends, had his hands in the sleeves of his quilted jacket and a sour look upon his face. All of them looked down into the ring as solemnly as if they were watching Barker's coffin pass by.

The acrobats gave up their poor efforts to entertain the crowd and fled. Cyrus Barker stepped out of the shadow into the nimbus shed by torches set into the arena's structure. He wore a pair of black, baggy trousers gathered at the waist and ankles in the Chinese manner, and his forearms were encased in leather gauntlets covered with metal studs. Despite the cold, he wore a sleeveless shirt with a mandarin collar, and from fifteen feet away I could see the burns, marks, and tattoos on his brawny arms, souvenirs of his initiations into many secret societies. I remarked to myself how, with his broad nose, black hair, and swarthy skin, he had successfully passed himself off as an Oriental for many years prior to returning to the West. In place of his usual black-lensed spectacles, his eyes were now hidden behind a pair of round, India-rubber goggles I had never seen before.

At the sight of him, everyone began chanting his name even louder, and more wagers changed hands; but Barker ignored them and began warming up, loosening his joints and stretching. My tension eased a little. The Guv seemed confident, and why shouldn't he? He was six feet two inches tall, after all, and weighed over fifteen stone, dwarfing most of us in the room. Given the short notice before the fight, what sort of fellow could they have found to face a man as formidable as he?

As if in answer to my thoughts, another man stepped into the ring, and I felt my stomach fall away. If the crowd was excited before, it went into a frenzy now. The wagers redoubled now that the combatants could be compared.

Ho shot me a cold glance after we had both surveyed the opponent, and his eyes were reduced to mere slits in his face. I knew what he was thinking. It was the same thing I had been thinking myself since we'd been brought here: this was all my fault, mine alone. Barker was down there about to begin the fight of his life because of my mistakes. If I hadn't followed the girl, if I hadn't fought the Chinese, if I hadn't lost the dog, then perhaps...

Well, perhaps I should start at the beginning.



Continues...


Excerpted from The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas Copyright © 2006 by Will Thomas. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

Group Reading Guide

The Limehouse Text

Will Thomas

Questions for Discussion

  1. During the opening sequence in the prologue, our narrator's employer is about to engage in a brutal fight to the death that the narrator blames himself for causing. How does the prologue set the tone for the rest of The Limehouse Text? Does the tone and your feelings about the narrator change from beginning to the end? If so, in what ways?
  1. In the first chapter, we learn that Quong, private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker's first assistant, had been murdered by a bullet through his forehead one year prior. Is it surprising that Llewelyn is not more concerned about his own well-being, given the fate of his predecessor? Why or why not? Why is Barker particularly driven to find Quong's killer?
  2. Describe the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker. How is it similar to and/or different from Sherlock and Dr. Watson? Why doesn't Barker tell Thomas more about what they are investigating? How does it affect the narrative power to find out answers to the mystery at the same time that Thomas does?
  3. How does setting The Limehouse Text in London's Chinatown add to the atmosphere of the narrative? Why do you think the author chose this locale? Are you surprised to hear that there are only 500 to 600 Chinese in London, a major hub of commerce and the British Navy, at this time in history? Why or why not?
  4. Bainbridge's last words are, ". . . all these Orientals are natural born liars. They never say what they really mean and you never can know what they're thinking. They'd turn a laundry list into a mystery."Does this stereotype toward Asians still exist today? Was the author sending a message about the dangers of racism by immediately killing off Bainbridge after he utters these words?
  5. Why do you think Barker insists on being called a "private enquiry agent" versus "detective?" What is the difference between the two and what does it reveal about Barker?
  6. What is Jimmy Woo's role in the narrative of The Limehouse Text? What qualities make him seem untrustworthy from the moment he is introduced?
  1. Inspector Bainbridge, before he is murdered, comments, "The Holy Bible is a book. The Koran is a book. Right now in the Sudan, men are killing each other over both of them." Why do you think the author included this information? Does it make you think about recent political situations in the Middle East?
  2. How is Barker's friendship with Inspector Poole tested in The Limehouse Text? Was it proper for Barker to conceal the existence of the book from Poole? Why or why not?
  3. How does the intensity of the story change when attempts on Barker's and his associates' lives are made from within his own house? How does the introduction of Madame and Etienne Drummolard affect the timbre of the story?
  4. Are you surprised at the person Barker chooses to courier the text? Why does he choose whom he does?
  5. What do we learn about Barker and Llewelyn by the finish of the story that we didn't know before — how do their characters become more illuminated by the mystery they solve and the adventures they endure? How does their relationship change?

Book Club Tips:

  1. Watch a classic Sherlock Holmes film and compare the relationship between Holmes and Watson to Barker and Llewelyn's.
  2. Read all three of the Barker and Llewelyn books in a row and discuss how the characters develop as the stories build upon each other.
  3. The books in this series could very easily become movies. Who should play each of the characters in the film versions and why?
  4. Devour a Chinese feast while you discuss the various characters. Or conversely, serve high English tea to set a British ambiance for your group.

Will Thomas is the author of Some Danger Involved, the first novel featuring Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn, and now a Barry and Shamus Award nominee. He lives with his family in Oklahoma.

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Reading Group Guide


Group Reading Guide

The Limehouse Text

Will Thomas

Questions for Discussion

  1. During the opening sequence in the prologue, our narrator's employer is about to engage in a brutal fight to the death that the narrator blames himself for causing. How does the prologue set the tone for the rest of The Limehouse Text? Does the tone and your feelings about the narrator change from beginning to the end? If so, in what ways?
  2. In the first chapter, we learn that Quong, private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker's first assistant, had been murdered by a bullet through his forehead one year prior. Is it surprising that Llewelyn is not more concerned about his own well-being, given the fate of his predecessor? Why or why not? Why is Barker particularly driven to find Quong's killer?
  3. Describe the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker. How is it similar to and/or different from Sherlock and Dr. Watson? Why doesn't Barker tell Thomas more about what they are investigating? How does it affect the narrative power to find out answers to the mystery at the same time that Thomas does?
  4. How does setting The Limehouse Text in London's Chinatown add to the atmosphere of the narrative? Why do you think the author chose this locale? Are you surprised to hear that there are only 500 to 600 Chinese in London, a major hub of commerce and the British Navy, at this time in history? Why or why not?
  5. Bainbridge's last words are, ". . . all these Orientals are natural born liars. They never say what they really mean and you never can know what they're thinking. They'd turn a laundry list into a mystery." Does this stereotype toward Asians still exist today? Was the author sending a message about the dangers of racism by immediately killing off Bainbridge after he utters these words?
  6. Why do you think Barker insists on being called a "private enquiry agent" versus "detective?" What is the difference between the two and what does it reveal about Barker?
  7. What is Jimmy Woo's role in the narrative of The Limehouse Text? What qualities make him seem untrustworthy from the moment he is introduced?
  8. Inspector Bainbridge, before he is murdered, comments, "The Holy Bible is a book. The Koran is a book. Right now in the Sudan, men are killing each other over both of them." Why do you think the author included this information? Does it make you think about recent political situations in the Middle East?
  9. How is Barker's friendship with Inspector Poole tested in The Limehouse Text? Was it proper for Barker to conceal the existence of the book from Poole? Why or why not?
  10. How does the intensity of the story change when attempts on Barker's and his associates' lives are made from within his own house? How does the introduction of Madame and Etienne Drummolard affect the timbre of the story?
  11. Are you surprised at the person Barker chooses to courier the text? Why does he choose whom he does?
  12. What do we learn about Barker and Llewelyn by the finish of the story that we didn't know before -- how do their characters become more illuminated by the mystery they solve and the adventures they endure? How does their relationship change?

Book Club Tips:

  1. Watch a classic Sherlock Holmes film and compare the relationship between Holmes and Watson to Barker and Llewelyn's.
  2. Read all three of the Barker and Llewelyn books in a row and discuss how the characters develop as the stories build upon each other.
  3. The books in this series could very easily become movies. Who should play each of the characters in the film versions and why?
  4. Devour a Chinese feast while you discuss the various characters. Or conversely, serve high English tea to set a British ambiance for your group.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2011

    BRILLIANT!!!

    I don't think I've ever wished more desperately for the next book in any series! I love these characters. They practically walk right off the page and into life. The stories are all geniusly plotted, revealing things about the characters as well as clues to the mystery. This is my favourite one of the series. Read them!

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  • Posted May 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great series

    Wonderful mystery series. Just the right amount of humor and drama with a bit of historical fact thrown in. The characters are slowly developed in each book but it is possible to read them out of order.

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  • Posted March 3, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    There's a new sheriff in town.

    Sherlock Holmes. Sam Spade. Cyrus Barker. Will Thomas has managed to put his Victorian enquiry agent alongside the heavyweights of mystery fiction. His predecessors might be a bit more established, but whatever Barker might lack in pedigree he more than makes up for in sheer force of persona. From his myriad tattoos, dark glasses, and equally shadowy past to his love of tea and his small dog, Barker wills himself from the page into three vivid dimensions in your imagination. The Limehouse Text brings Barker's Oriental past and his London present together in a clash of events and cultures that will determine the future of many. The author reveals much about his two main characters in his third, and best, novel of the series. Llewelyn finds that he is still very green, but grows in confidence and experience by the story's end. Barker, his strength and skills seemingly inexhaustible, goes to amazing lengths in the name of justice. Thomas' best work reaches beyond the confines of genre to offer widespread entertainment. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted March 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great series book

    Will Thomas has certainly found his niche. Barker and Llewelyn. are at it again in Limehouse Text which is the third book in the series. This time, we get to find out a little more about Barker's first assistant Quong who Llewely replaced because Quong was killed. Limehouse is an area of London that's where the Chines live plus it's one of the most dangerous parts of London. The text referred to in the title was stolen from the Xi Jiang Monastery in the Jiangsu Province of China and was later brought aboard ship to London. The book is an instruction manual containing secret and highly dangerous martial arts techniques practiced in China, and if the volume should fall into the wrong hands, the consequences could be disastrous. An unknown assailant has already murdered several people in an attempt to get his hands on this prized work. And there are too many people to count looking for this text. A pawn ticket that was in the effects of Quong when he died may lead to this text. This was just a great book. I finished this one and then read the next two in the series. Unfortunately right now there aren't anymore to read for awhile. I look forward to the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2007

    A reviewer

    This was such a great book. I love Agatha Christie and this was a nice change of pace since the time period is a little different. Great mystery, great story, great characters. I really felt like I knew them & can't wait to read the other books by Will Thomas.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2007

    Will Thomas tops my list of historical mystery writers

    Some Danger Involved, the first of the Cyrus Barker/Thomas Llewelyn partnership mystery series, caught me so pleasantly by surprise that I could hardly wait for the publication of his next book. For me, To Kingdom Come was slightly disappointing, yet it was still a good read. I retained my conviction in Will Thomas's very fine writing ability. Limehouse Text brought Thomas back up on his game. I found each page to be a pleasure better than chocolate. The unfolding lives--past histories and present exploits--of the main characters keeps a reader's interest growing. I am eagerly awaiting the next case of Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2006

    terrific Victorian mystery

    In 1885 Inspector Nevil Bainbridge visits enquiry agent Cyrus Barker holding a pawn ticket found sewed in a robe owned by the late Quong, who was Barker¿s assistant before Thomas Llewelyn. Confused as Quong had no secrets, but assuming his former assistant was just learning about western ways with trips to out of the way shops, Cyrus, Nevil and Thomas visit the pawn shop in the Chinatown Limehouse section of London. --- They learn the pawn store owner recently fell down a set of stairs and died, and someone broke into the shop. They retrieve a Chinese book so they next go to see Chinese cuisine Chef Ho for an interpretation of what they possess. He cautions them that the book is a sacred ¿hidden text of a boxing school¿ that should never have found its way to Europe. They soon learn first hand why Ho gave a ¿death touch¿ warning when several people, some willing to kill as Cyrus believes happened to the pawn shop owner and Quong, want to possess the book. --- THE LIMEHOUSE TEXT is a terrific Victorian mystery that pays homage to Holmes and Watson as did the two previous enquiry thrillers (see SOME DANGER INVOLVED and TO KINGDOM COME). The whodunit is fun though the killer seems obvious early on while readers will appreciate Cyrus¿s tour of 1880s Limehouse section where many Chinese expatriates lived. Sort of like a cross between Derek Flint (see movies IN LIKE FLINT and OUR MAN FLINT) and Holmes, readers especially the Baker Street Irregulars will enjoy Cyrus¿ latest escapades. --- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted April 30, 2009

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