Book Review: The Revenant of Thraxton Hall

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall by Vaughn Entwistle

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.

Titan books is a huge source of the current Sherlock Holmes fiction this day and I have read a few of those and enjoyed them very much. When the opportunity presented itself to review The Revenant of Thraxton Hall it was to good not to say yes. The part that got me interested in this book was the promise of being written from the point of view of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We all know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the creative mind behind Sherlock Holmes. This is the first story, insofar as I know and that I have read wherein he takes the lead in an investigation! Mainly by this turn of the tables I found this story very enjoyable to read. In part it is directly in the lines of an Sherlock Holmes investigation but it is some fresh because the leads are none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde!

The story of The Revenant of Thraxton Hall opens with a scene where Arthur has just killed of his most famous character, Sherlock Holmes, he was getting tired of Sherlock and wanted to write something new. However the majority of the readers far from agree with him and they want their favorite detective back. It was the one thing that helped sell the newspaper. And everyone shows a certain hate towards Arthur. All this does become too much and Arthur desperately wants to flee London to catch some fresh air. Soon relief comes from the request of Hope Thraxton, a psychic medium, who has seen her own death in a vision. In this vision she didn't see the one that murdered her, but did see one other person, Arthur. This fact and with Arthur being the literary mastermind behind Sherlock Holmes makes him the perfect candidate for this investigation. Only Arthur doesn't have any experience in the field of being a detective... but luckily he does have a very sharp mind and a great sidekick, Oscar Wilde. 

It also says on the front, The Paranormal Casebook of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The beginning of the story it's more on the natural side, with the exception of the first encounter with Hope Thraxton seeing her own death. However as soon Arthur arrives at the house of the Society for Psychical Research it all starts to go towards the supernatural! As some of the members of the Society have more up their sleeve, like the amazing magician that defies all odd and is able to levitate himself. There are another few interesting characters of this society that all added their own mythical flair to the story. One thing that I liked about how Vaughn Entwistly used this supernatural aspect was that is didn't necessarily had the focus on it, it's partly obscure and there aren't any flashy scenes (besides the levitating magician). Keeping it in check in the background produced an alluring setting that fitted just spot on in the story of The Revenant of Thraxton Hall.

As for the main characters of the story: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde, I can only imagine that Vaughn Entwistle must have been in for a daunting task. Of course this book is fiction, but they both are historical characters and have a well known history. Converting such an important characters and using them in your story, must be difficult, keeping facts and appearances straight. I have to say that I was impressed with how Vaughn Entwistle managed to portray the historical characters of the story. I am a bit familiar with them and found that he captured and showed a great authenticity of both Arthur and Oscar, but giving them also his own spin. Arthur is a really a great character to read about and his point-of-view is precisely that of his fictional character Sherlock Holmes. He wasn't all that confident in the beginning of the book in terms of being a bit torn between having killed of his character and how the general public dealt with this information. Added tot his came the case with Hope Thraxton, in which he had no experience at all. However as the story progressed, he gained much more experience and learned a lot. Most likely his sharp mind played a great deal in this. The same goes for Oscar Wilde, a long time friend of Arthur. He is the Watson to Sherlock. But not the serious kind, he is more on the playful side and less serious one. This produced some perfect scenes between them that put a smile on my face. All in all, the main characters, Arthur and Oscar really came to life in this book, they are popular and everyone one time must have heard of them. However their popularity, Vaughn Entwistle didn't let this play on the parts of the secondary character, they weren't in the sade of Arthur or Oscar but made a very strong entry.

Another plus of The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, is the solid writing style that Vaughn Entwistle uses. By his writing he clearly embodies the Victorian London setting into the fine details. You might say, well using the characters of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde in your story will directly produce the link to the historical Victorian London. But I dare to disagree, it still takes a lot of effort to let them tell the story and of course for the writer to produce the whole setting of the book. Seeing that this is his second book I have to give him a lot of praise for producing such a rich and intriguing atmosphere in this world. When I read the last few pages of the book, I did got another smile, as Arthur opts that this will likely not be the last case that he will note in his casebook! Fingers crossed for more!

I wanted to read The Revenant of Thraxton Hall based on the interesting promise of the story focusing on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and not on Sherlock Holmes and I must say that I was more than pleasantly surprised with the amazingly rich story that Vaughn Entwistle managed to put down. I have to admit that I did have small reservation when I learned that two major historical characters would be used in this story. However Vaughn Entwistly shows that he clearly knows his history and wrote them up in a lively and dynamic way and even giving them his own spin. If you are into Sherlock Holmes be sure that you don't miss out on The Revenant of Thraxton Hall. And just like I said in the last paragraph, finger crossed for more of the eccentric detective duo!


Popular Posts