The Irregular

Written by H B Lyle

Review written by Stephen Thornley

An avid reader, Stephen's knowledge of Crime Fiction is fairly extensive, with The Golden Age is his greatest interest.


The Irregular
Hodder and Stoughton
RRP: £17.99
Released: May 18 2017
HBK

This is an exciting, action packed adventure set in London in 1909. The capital is awash with political activists; many of whom are foreign nationals intent on creating unrest and stoking the revolutionary fires that are springing up at the turn of the century. The Establishment is primarily concerned with the threat posed to public safety by organized (and often violent) demonstrations led by socialists and anarchists.

In this setting Lyle has chosen an interesting and highly engaging way to take the Sherlock Holmes legacy in a new and thrilling direction. The use of a less well known character, Wiggins, has allowed plenty of scope for an imaginative and creative writer to fashion a new hero. Many will remember that Wiggins was the older boy who led The Baker Street Irregulars, a group of orphan children brought together to work for Mr Holmes. They were his eyes and ears in the great metropolis. Wiggins was the link between Holmes and the gang.

Now grown up, Wiggins had a spell in the army fighting the Boers in South Africa. On his return to London he secured work as a debt collector for a small time money lender. However, on the recommendation of Mr Holmes, Captain Kell of the embryonic Secret Service tries to recruit Wiggins as one of his agents. Wiggins however shows no interest in working for Officialdom. Kell is out of his depth as a spymaster as this new role does not sit easily with a British gentleman who does not believe in using underhand methods. It takes Wiggins barely five minutes to undermine Kell's authority, but it also makes him realise that he needs a man like Wiggins.

The turning point comes for Wiggins when his best friend and ex-army colleague Constable Bill Tyler is gunned down in the street as the two of them try to stop a pair of armed Russian criminals from robbing a payroll. He goes to see his old boss, Mr Holmes and takes his advice to join Kell's operation. He figures he has a better chance of finding out who put the Russians up to the payroll job as part of the Forces of Law and Order, than as a lone investigator.

Wiggins was a quick learner under Holmes and observed many of the great detective's skills. But he is also a man haunted by his past with constant nightmares of institutional cruelty, life and death on the streets as well as of the horrors of war. Wiggins has to shrug them all off to help Kell look for proof of German espionage while also searching for the brains behind his friend's killers. In the streets of London, Wiggins finds Russian anarchists intent on murder, traitors selling secrets, spies and a beautiful Latvian working in a laundry.

There is an exuberant lively pace to the writing with Wiggins getting involved in many difficult and daring situations, not to mention life threatening combat. Here is a man who has struggled against the odds to survive on the mean streets of the East End right from early childhood, through to fighting on foreign soil as a young adult. He is a dogged determined individual who despite setbacks will not be turned from his goal. Wiggins thinks on his feet, he relies on the skills he has learnt on the streets; in addition to the powers of observation and deduction honed by the master Sherlock Holmes. He is a very good man to have on your side, perhaps the best.

 

 

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