The publishers claim this book is a prequel to Entwistle’s “Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”. The eminent Victorian is not present in this tale but his sense of mystery, adventure and great storytelling certainly runs through this highly enjoyable novel. All the elements for a popular Victorian melodrama are here – a raffish hero, dastardly baddies, opium dens, prostitutes, duels, disguise, séances, pea-soupers – you can tick all the boxes but it’s written with such relish that everything seems fresh.
A startling occurrence in Highgate Cemetery opens proceedings and the hero will certainly begin by shocking his readers. I once lived very near this cemetery and it fascinated me almost as much as it does lead character Lord Geoffrey Thraxton in this novel (Audrey Niffenegger’s “Her Fearful Symmetry” from 2009 is also memorably set there). I applied to be a volunteer but they were keen to enrol me on a night patrol which I didn’t fancy. Apparently there were strange nocturnal goings on at this time. This seems, however, no different from the Victorian times as suggested by opening events in this novel. Lord Thraxton’s philandering does give way to more appropriately heroic behaviour. As the novel proceeds he becomes less of a cad, especially when he discovers romance amongst the gravestones. The way he deals, however, with a critic who savages his poetry should make all of us reviewers wince.
This is a splendid romp, fast-paced and very readable with extremely memorable characters. Thraxton’s friend Algernon Hyde- Davies combines being a man about town with head botanist at Kew Gardens and is extremely likeable and the villains have suitably Dickensian monikers such as Walter Crynge, Barnabus Snudge and Mordecai Fowler. I haven’t had so much fun in Victorian London since James Benmore’s “Dodger” series. I’m not sure how this book relates to Entwistle’s other novels but I am confident it would be great to find out.
The Angel Of Highgate was published by Titan Books in 2015