by Lyle, H. B.

London 1909: The British Empire spans the globe, seen as an invulnerable imperial power-but in Russia, there is revolution in the wind; in Germany, an arms race; and in London, the streets are alive with foreign agents provocateurs.

Vernon Kell, head of counterintelligence at the war office, wants to set up a Secret Service, an agency with a mandate to act domestically and abroad to protect the Empire, but to convince his political masters he needs proof of a threat. To find that proof, he needs an agent he can trust who is smart, ruthless, and able to blend in with the hoi polloi. The playing fields of Eton may produce good army and naval officers, but not men who can work undercover in a munitions factory that appears to be leaking secrets to the Germans . . .

As it happens, the man Kell needs is Wiggins. Trained as a child by Kell's old friend Sherlock Holmes-who organized a gang of urchin investigators known at 221B as the Baker Street Irregulars-Wiggins is a survivor: an ex-soldier with a talent for deduction perhaps second only to the Great Detective, as well as a cunning street fighter. "The best," says Holmes.

But Wiggins turns down the job-he "don't do official." Then his best friend, Bill, a constable with the London police, is killed by Russian anarchists, and Wiggins realizes that accepting the role of secret agent could give him the cover he needs to pursue revenge against Bill's killers.

Tracking down the Russian gang responsible for the murder and assembling a motley network of allies and informants in the process, Wiggins begins to unravel a deadly international conspiracy that reaches far beyond the munitions factory.

H.B. Lyle lives in South London with his partner and their twin daughters. After a career in feature film development, he took an MA in creative writing-and then a PhD-at the University of East Anglia, an experience which led to the creation of The Irregular, his first novel. He also writes screenplays and teaches undergraduates.

In London in 1909, Captain Vernon Kell desperately needs a new agent. The best man available, according to Kell's friend Sherlock Holmes, is a disreputable character named Wiggins, who was trained by Holmes as a young orphan and eventually led Holmes' Irregulars. Kell, head of a new counterintelligence unit in the War Office, needs to prove that Germany poses a threat to England if he is to justify establishing a formal Secret Service. His case is made stronger after he discovers secrets leaking from a London munitions plant to a German manufacturer. Wiggins' keen instincts and knowledge of the London streets are soon clear, as he insinuates himself into a gang of Russian protesters. Lyle offers a skillful blend of fact and fiction, from Holmes and Watson to Churchill and the real-life leaders of the agencies that became MI5 and MI6. A compelling series debut and a natural read-alike for Robert Goddard's Max Maxted series and David Downing's Jack McColl novels, both set in the WWI era and involving the beginnings of formal espionage. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.

When Britain wants to inaugurate a secret service, who better to assist than the greatest detective in history?London, 1909. Vernon Kell, head of counterintelligence at the War Office, buttonholes two-fisted adventurer Wiggins on the street and asks him about joining his elite new unit. Wiggins comes highly recommended by his mentor, who's none other than Sherlock Holmes. Free-wheeling Wiggins declines but recommends his friend Bill Tyler, a police officer at Tottenham station. Even as this meeting unfolds, Kell's operative Leyton is walking into a deadly ambush. While Kell identifies Leyton's body, Wiggins is at Tottenham station, where Bill's agreed to float him a loan. A shootout there leaves Bill dead and an enraged Wiggins out for vengeance. The perps seem to be a clutch of Russians, the same people Kell is trying to neutralize. Wiggins tries striking out on his own, but his violent actions earn him a short stay in prison, though at the perp's lair he meets Bela, a lovely Latvian woman. It's Kell who rescues Wiggins from prison and at length enlists him for his new secret service. Where better to begin than by consulting his retired mentor? Holmes advises him to build a network of informants by finding friends. The heedful Wiggins chooses Bela as his Watson (and more), and the game is afoot. Fans of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories will remember young Wiggins as the leader of the Baker Street Irregulars.Sherlock Holmes' delayed first appearance here is shrewdly calculated. Though Lyle's debut novel is certainly an homage, it's not a flat-footed imitation but a crisp, stylish spinoff. Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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