London 1909: The British Empire spans the globe, seen as an invulnerable imperial power. But Captain Vernon Kell, head of counter-intelligence at the War Office, knows better. In Russia, there is revolution in the wind; in Germany, an arms race; and in London, the streets are alive with foreign agents provocateur.Kell 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 an 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." But when his best friend, a constable with the London police, is killed by Russian anarchists, Wiggins realizes that accepting the role of secret agent could give him the cover he needs to pursue revenge against his friend's killers.
Tracking down the Russian gang responsible for the murder, Wiggins meets a mysterious beauty called Bela, who saves his life and becomes his lover. As he works for Kell, Wiggins begins to unravel a deadly international conspiracy that reaches far beyond the munitions factory.
"HB Lyle has found the golden thread between Holmes and Bond in a thriller which engages on every page."
--- Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland
"A thrilling story of espionage, murder and the creation of the Secret Service."
--- Charles Cumming, author of A Divided Spy
"A fine first entry in what promises to be a great new series. Wiggins is a captivating hero, and Lyle draws his Edwardian backstreets in convincing color. The game is most definitely afoot."
--- Mick Herron, author of the Slough House series
"An exciting, action-packed adventure set in London in 1909 . . . takes the Sherlock Holmes legacy in a new and thrilling direction."
--- Stephen Thornley, Shots Magazine
--- Sunday Express
"A flavoursome smorgasbord that features not only Holmes but also Winston Churchill, this is irresistible stuff"
--- Barry Forshaw, The Guardian
"Impressive period detail and sharp dialogue add charm to the strong plot"
--- Daily Mail
"It is hard to generate something new in such an avalanche of well-worn tropes, but H.B. Lyle has managed to do that quite cleverly in The Irregular"
--- Crime Time
"A fast-moving, hugely enjoyable story with interesting characters and authentic background... It is the first of a series, and I look forward to the sequels"
--- Historical Novel Society