The Hermit Librarian

Review: Barnabas Tew and The Case of the Missing Scarab by Columbkill Noonan

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Published: 26 July 2017

Publisher: Crooked Cat Books

Category: Mystery/Thriller & Suspense/British Detectives

Barnabas Tew is a private detective struggling to survive in his trade in Victorian London. Fearing that he is not as clever as he had hoped to be, he is plagued by a lack of confidence brought on in no small part by his failure to prevent the untimely deaths of several of his clients.

Matters only get worse when Anubis, the Egyptian God of the Dead, is referred to Barnabas by a former client (who perished in a terribly unfortunate incident which was almost certainly not Barnabas’ fault). Anubis sends for Barnabas (in a most uncivilized manner) and tells him that the scarab beetle in charge of rolling the sun across the sky every day has been kidnapped, and perhaps dismembered entirely.

The Land of the Dead is in chaos, which will soon spill over into the Land of the Living if Barnabas – together with his trusty assistant, Wilfred – cannot set matters to right. Pulled from his predictable (if unremarkable) life in Marylebone, Barnabas must match his wits against the capricious and dangerous Egyptian gods in order to unravel the mystery of the missing beetle and thereby save the world.

Rating: 4 Stars

I love a good detective story as a general rule. When presented with the chance to read a book set around the time the Sherlock Holmes stories were published about a reader of them who admired them so much he desired to become a detective, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. Add to that the fact that the fact that the summary promised one of his clients to be an Egyptian god and I was more than a little intrigued!

Barnabas Tew appears as something of a bumbling sweetheart, somewhere between a pitiable character and a bit of an annoying one. He was enraptured with the Holmes stories so much that, straight out of college, he set about opening up his own detective agency with the intention of being the best one in the country, nay, the world! Ten years later and things are not going as expected. He fears that he might be more suited to the Dr. Watson role in things and his own assistant, Wilfred, would be a better chimney sweep.

His admiration of Holmes is understandable, but I could see where his admiration and his imitation of his hero turned out to be his failing. He doesn’t have the same need to pursue justice that I remember Holmes having, as evidenced when Barnabas arrives at the conclusion to at least two of his cases later and doesn’t see fit to pursue them for at least justice without financial reward.

He does really keep trying though. How else would you explain still being at the game after ten years of, shall we say, less than stellar performance? Things certainly chance for our main character when he finds himself not of the living any longer and in the employ Anubis, Egyptian God of the Dead!

The absurdity of passing out and waking to find oneself first dead and second in a boat on your way to the Underworld is enough to make anyone rather upset, but I thought Barnabas took it rather well all things considered. From here on out we followed our intrepid detective as he endeavors to solve a mystery that is quite unlike anything he, or even the famous Mr. Holmes, has ever has the fortune to come across.

In this story the writing style was generally well paced. I think I found myself wishing certain passages were a bit shorter so as to get to the point, but overall it wasn’t so bad. Barnabas, difficult as he was to love some of the time, was generally a goodhearted man and something of a bookworm.

The Egyptian pantheon was a good cast of characters. I think this story might be one for older fans of Rick Riordan’s books, fascinated as he is with Greek, Norse, and Egyptian gods, and especially considering the new client that Anubis procures for Barnabas and Wilfred at the close of the book. Will there be a second book? I’d certainly like to think so; there’s a cliffhanger that’s got me wondering what sort of mischief Barnabas and Wilfred will be facing in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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