It is 1894, and Arthur Conan Doyle has just killed off Sherlock Holmes, making him the most hated man in London. So when he is contacted by a respected medium and asked to investigate a murder, he jumps at the chance to leave the city. But the murder has not yet occurred - the medium, Hope Thraxton, has foreseen that she will die at a séance of the Society for Psychical Research, to be held at her manor house in the Lancashire 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 monkey familiar. Meanwhile, Conan Doyle is enchanted by the plight of the capricious Hope Thraxton, who may not be quite what she seems. A curse hangs over the Thraxton family, and the two friends are running out of time, as the clock ticks ever closer to Hope's murder.
After recently reviewing one Sherlock Holmes-inspired novel where Professor Moriarty takes on the central role, I now move on to the first of Vaughn Entwistle’s new The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series, The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, where Conan Doyle takes on a ‘real life’ mystery after killing off his beloved hero Holmes in The Final Problem.
A mysterious young woman, veiled in black, summons him to her aid, telling him that she has foreseen her own death at a séance to be held at her manor in Lancashire. Conan Doyle, accompanied by his close friend Oscar Wilde, head up to the manor house to join members of the Society for Psychical Research and have to determine who the murderer is before it is too late. I have to say that having Conan Doyle take over the Sherlock role worked very well, as did the inclusion of Oscar Wilde, probably because the character of Conan Doyle is different enough to Sherlock Holmes that it doesn’t feel like Entwistle is merely trying to write his own Sherlock story and Wilde adds a fun foil to Conan Doyle’s more dour personality.
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall is a mixture of a Turn of The Screw-style horror story mixed with Poirot and runs along a fairly well-trodden path of a group of people contained in a country house, a colourful family history, a housekeeper who manages to out-Danver Mrs Danvers for sheer unpleasantness and long lost people popping up to get their revenge for past wrongs. Essentially, if you like country house murder mysteries, you’ll like this and if you don’t, you probably won’t. The proceedings do have a paranormal turn and this does manage to take the book another step away from the original Sherlock Holmes stories. I thought it got a little schlocky towards the end because of this – I prefer a proper solution to a mystery myself – but it was a fun read and I look forward to reading the next in the series.
Review by Cat Fitzpatrick
7.5/10 from 1 reviews
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