Vaughn Entwistle very kindly sent me this book following our Author Strikes Back interview which was based on his subsequent novel, the highly enjoyable “The Angel of Highgate”. This 2014 publication is the first in his “Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” and features two prominent Victorian literary figures in Doyle and Oscar Wilde. Neither of these are strangers to fictional characterisations. TV presenter Giles Brandreth has written a whole series of sleuthing novels featuring Oscar Wilde and Conan Doyle has perhaps been most famously fictionalised in Julian Barnes’ “Arthur And George”.
The pair, who were friends in real life, lend themselves very well to Entwistle’s crime romp. It is not so much a whodunit as a who will do it. It is set at the time when Conan Doyle’s wife is in the latter stages of consumption and he has tired of his great creation, Sherlock Holmes, and killed him off amid much public outcry. An invitation to do some detective work at Thraxton Hall seems a perfect short-term getaway from his troubles and Wilde comes along for the ride. These are individuals who most readers would have some impression as to what they were like and Entwistle very nicely fleshes out our impressions of the larger than life Wilde and the conflicted Conan Doyle. This unlikely friendship is a real highspot of the novel.
What Entwistle does with these two is to place them in a classic country house set-up reminiscent of the golden days of crime fiction. A meeting of the Society for Psychical Research allows for a supernatural element. Otherwise there’s a group of likely suspects from above and below stairs, a locked-room death and enough tunnels and secret passageways to delight the classic crime fan. There wasn’t as much out and out fun as the more gloriously unpredictable “Angel of Highgate” and the darker side of the author’s writing was not as evident but it did provide me with considerable enjoyment and is worth seeking out as a successful modern slant on classic crime fiction. In 2015 the second of this series entitled “The Dead Assassin” was published.
“The Revenant Of Thraxton Hall” was published in 2014 by Titan.