The Dead Assassin by Vaughn Entwistle

Rating 8.5/10
A must-read for those who enjoy a good gothic romp in a Victorian England.

Victorian England is the setting for two of the most famous literary icons of the day, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde. After his success writing the Sherlock Holmes novels, Doyle continually gets summoned by Scotland Yard on cases that baffle even them - and on one such occasion he is summoned again, this time to a murder most 'orrible. Any other time, Doyle might be flattered enough to help, but he has a dinner guest at the Tivoli restaurant, one he has to leave in order to see to a murder there. This time he would rather they left him alone, but when the murder is a particularly gruesome one, he can hardly ignore it.

When they learn that the murdered man is none other than Lord Howell, the prime minister's secretary for war, they start to fear the worst, though with Doyle and Wilde on the case, it shouldn’t be long before the culprit or culprits will be found. The times they are in are hard enough with anarchists, suspect foreigners who are believed to be spies and terrorist attacks, this latest murder adds more fuel to the fire that a foreigner could be responsible.

As part of the Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vaughn Entwistle has also penned two other novels, one The Revenant of Thraxton Hall and The Angel of Highgate, which is due out later this year. Doyle and Wilde are on the case, knowing there is something evil around the corner. Their clues are the murdered lord, a graffiti message left outside that corresponds with one seen inside a broadsheet and an Italian valet the commissioner is convinced played a part in the assassination. Doyle notices tempers are flared with the anarchy around them and thinks it’s an idea to take a trip back to analyse what has happened without use of prejudice. Doyle is the perfect straight man to Wilde's funny man, a double-act where the wit flows as freely as Wilde's champagne. The murder of Lord Howell is only the start as there is more to Doyle being kidnapped than expected - the kidnapper believes that Queen Victoria may be the next target as attempts on her life have been made before, but as the anarchy and unrest grows; he thinks it won't be too long before they succeed.

What makes this story so compelling is that the assassin could be someone inside the police, or the palace, busily conspiring against the crown. With Doyle on their side, they could find the killer as he has no ties to an anarchist group. Vaughn Entwistle writes with a knowing style of all the things associated with both Doyle and Wilde, and Wilde is a larger than life character concerned with the recent murder and the fact his play is being spoiled by the fog ravaging England.

The Dead Assassin is a must-read for those who enjoy a good gothic romp in a Victorian England where two of the best characters of the day play the leading men in a novel packed with charming villains.

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