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To Kingdom Come

A Novel

About The Book

Victorian enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his young assistant Thomas Llewelyn, first introduced in Will Thomas's critically acclaimed debut novel Some Danger Involved, are back with a new mission in To Kingdom Come.

When a bomb destroys the Special Irish Branch of Scotland Yard, all fingers point to the increasingly brazen factions of Irish dissidents seeking liberation from English rule. Volunteering their services to the British government, Barker and Llewelyn set out to infiltrate a secret cell of the Irish Republican Brotherhood known as the Invisibles. Posing as a reclusive German bomb maker and his anarchist apprentice, they are recruited for the group's ultimate plan: to bring London to its knees and end the monarchy forever.

Their adventures take them from an abandoned lighthouse on the craggy coast of Wales to the City of Light, where Llewelyn goes undercover with Maire O'Casey, the alluring sister of an Irish radical. Llewelyn again finds himself put to the test by his enigmatic employer as he is schooled in the deadly science of bomb making.

Fraught with explosives, secret initiations, and vicious stick fights, and featuring historical figures such as Charles Parnell and W. B. Yeats, To Kingdom Come is a riveting sequel to Some Danger Involved.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Guide
1. During the opening sequence in the prologue, our narrator is in the process of drowning, which we learn is because of an attempt on his life. How does this set the tone for the rest of To Kingdom Come? Do you believe that the narrator will ultimately survive?
2. What do we learn about our narrator, Thomas Llewelyn, within the first few chapters? What else do we learn about Thomas as the narrative progresses? We never learn why he was imprisoned, why Cyrus Barker hired him, or why Thomas is not in touch with his family. How does that affect the way you feel about Thomas as a narrator of this story? Does it make you want to read more and find out the answers to the unanswered questions?
3. Describe the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker. How is it similar to and/or different from Sherlock and Dr. Watson? Why isn't Barker more forthcoming with Thomas about what they are investigating? How does it affect the narrative power of the story to find out answers as Thomas does?
4. As Barker is instructing Llewelyn on "internal exercises," bombs explode in Scotland Yard. The police determine that it is the Irish Republican Brotherhood behind the bombing. Barker and Llewelyn go undercover to infiltrate the I.R.B. to stop further destruction. Why does Barker want to be involved in this case? What are his motives? What are the main qualities Barker displays in his dealings with Scotland Yard? Is he any different in the way he interacts with the I.R.B.? What do we know about Barker from his relationship to his employees and business contacts?
5. As Barker and Llewelyn infiltrate the I.R.B., we get a taste of the intensity of commitment that its members have to Irish independence. How does it compare to the feelings to today -- nearly 100 years after To Kingdom Come takes place -- that the Irish have toward England? Will Ireland ever have more than an uneasy truce with England? Why or why not? 6. The master bomb builder Johannes van Rhyn declares, "Like all makers of wholesale destruction, I am a pacifist. The bad thing about war is that it makes more evil people than it can take away." [p. 68] Do you agree with van Rhyn about war and the creation of evil people? Are you surprised that he is a pacifist? Are all "makers of mass destruction" pacifists? For example, compare the beliefs of the creators of the atom bomb with suicide bombers of the Middle East. Are they pacifists?
7. Dummolard says to Llewelyn, "You may be blown to bits next week, but for now, you shall eat like kings." Llewelyn thinks, "I couldn't help but feel there was a more tactful way of putting that." [p. 79] Discuss the role that humor plays in To Kingdom Come. How does it affect the tone of the story? How does it affect your feelings about Llewelyn? [Will: Is there another example of the humor in the book that you like better?]
8. What does Barker do while posing as van Rhyn to make Dunleavy, O'Casey, and the other members of the I.R.B. faction believe his commitment to their cause? [p. 102] What does he say that make the I.R.B. particularly susceptible to Barker's story?
9. Llewelyn goes through several rites of passage to be accepted by the I.R.B. faction, from a rough game of hurling to a crushing handshake to a ritual beating and branding ceremony. What is the value of this type of physical bonding?
10. The famous poet William Yeats is a character in To Kingdom Come. Why did the author include him? How does his inclusion affect the story's tone? Does he add more romance to the I.R.B.'s cause?
11. Who is the real leader of the I.R.B. faction in To Kingdom Come? What are some of the clues? Why does Thomas not suspect who the real leader is? 12. In the end, Llewelyn is physically battered and broken-hearted. Will he recover? Will he continue to assist Barker? How do we know this? How do you think the relationship between Llewelyn and Barker will evolve over time? How did it change within the course of To Kingdom Come?

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Will Thomas is the author of the Barker and Llewelyn series, a series of mystery novels set in Victorian England. The first novel in the series was nominated for a Barry Award and a Shamus Award, and won the 2005 Oklahoma Book Award. He lives with his family in Oklahoma.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Touchstone (February 7, 2006)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780743272346

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Raves and Reviews

"A fascinating and fun new detective team...Thomas again brings the era to life with vivid details.... Entertaining."
-- Ron Bernas, Detroit Free Press

"A talent to watch and enjoy...delightful."
-- S. I. Dunn, The Dallas Morning News

"A thorough delight."
-- Tom and Enid Schantz, The Denver Post

"Colorful London private enquiry agent Cyrus Barker and his diminutive young Welsh assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, make a welcome return in this sequel to last year's Some Danger Involved...The story is lively, full of convincing historical detail and reveals a few more tantalizing facts from Barker's mysterious past. The wonderful chemistry between Barker and Llewelyn makes the book, like its predecessor, a thorough delight."

-- Denver Post

"Thomas places his cast of likeable even heroic characters within a complex political minefield and the waits for the explosion. Intense and insightful."

-- Booklist

"Last year, Will Thomas' debut novel, Some Danger Involved, introduced readers to Cyrus Barker and Thomas Llewelyn, a fascinating and fun new detective team...It was one of the best mysteries of 2004...[To Kingdom Come] mostly lives up to expectations. Kingdom opens with a bang, literally, as the new Special Irish Branch of Scotland Yard is destroyed by a bomb planted by a fledgling group called the Irish Republican Brotherhood...there's enough of what made Danger so good to keep Kingdom entertaining. Llewelyn says he's growing used to never knowing where Barker is going or in what situation they'll find themselves once they get there. But still he follows. Readers will, too."

-- Detroit Free Press

", cleanly written follow-up to Some Danger Involved...The action unfolds briskly, and Llewelyn's voice should appeal to boys of all ages."

-- Publishers Weekly

"Having created a pair of appealing protagonists who debuted in his Victorian London mystery Some Danger Involved, Thomas needed to look no further than May 30, 1884-when Scotland Yard was bombed by Irish nationalists-for an actual event around which to build his first sequel...A successful blend of fiction and fact, this is-as expected-expertly researched and skillfully plotted, with satisfying amounts of emotion (with a growing friendship between Barker and Llewelyn) and suspense. For all mystery collections."

-- Library Journal

"Mystery lovers should grab the book and, before opening it, know that the author, Will Thomas, delivers another slam-dunk story about this inquiry agent and his apprentice, Thomas Llewelyn, who unravel intricate mysteries in Victorian England. This second book in (hopefully) a series, is as carefully researched and lethal as the first, Some Danger Involved."

-- Star Newspapers

"Watching Llewelyn acquire expertise in the arcane specialties of stick-fighting and hand-made explosives was absorbing, and I was equally fascinated by the meticulous attention the duo pay to assuming their new identities. The descriptions of the settings, ranging from cosmopolitan London and Liverpool to the desolate Welsh countryside, are masterfully drawn, and the lead characters and their comrades are burgeoning delightfully. This modern take on the Victorian era is utterly believable even when the characters are slightly too skilled to be true, and the running humor (the killer Pekinese, and the surly Chinese chef, for examples) adds colorful and delectable garnishes to this tasty main course."

-- I Love a Mystery

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