Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is brought to life in Vaughn Entwistle’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall. With an ease of writing, Entwistle transports us to the man behind Holmes and creates an intriguing story. Tricksters and phantasms abound as Entwistle keeps us on the edge of our seats trying to determine what is real and what isn’t.
Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem,” and he immediately becomes one of the most hated men in London. So when he is contacted by a medium “of some renown” and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to get out of the city. The only thing is that the murder hasn’t happened yet—the medium, one Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that her death will occur at the third séance of a meeting of the Society for Psychical Research at her manor house in the English countryside.
Along for the ride is Conan Doyle’s good friend Oscar Wilde, and together they work to narrow down the list of suspects, which includes a mysterious foreign Count, a levitating magician, and an irritable old woman with a “familiar.” Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may or may not have a more complicated back-story than it first appears. As Conan Doyle and Wilde participate in séances and consider the possible motives of the assembled group, the clock ticks ever closer to Hope’s murder, in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle.
Entwistle brings us smack dab into the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, making him masterfully relatable. We get to see Conan Doyle as a husband with the frustration of not being able to help his dying wife. He feels guilt as his attention is pulled by a mystery and the woman behind it. Not only did Entwistle make Conan Doyle more accessible, he brought to life J.M Barrie and more significantly, Oscar Wilde. As a big fan of Wilde, I loved how Entwistle showed a man who was larger than life. Many little quirks were written in and Wilde became the eccentric and colorful character we’ve learned to quote and adore the works of.
The overall plot is simplistic but brings us into the popularity of magicians and mysticism of the age. Entwistle makes use of the showmanship as well as the inherent eeriness of being in a large manor away from home. Hallucinations reinforce the thin line between realistic and fantasy.
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall has everything I could want from an investigation novel. We see the funny best friend in Wilde, the angst ridden protagonist of Conan Doyle, and the eerie background that is the northern enclave of Thraxton Hall. This decently paced book lays ground for more mysteries to come and I can’t wait to see what Entwistle comes out with next.