Vaughn Entwistle is a new face to me, but with such an exquisite name, it’s not one I’m likely to forget any time soon. Moreover, he’s written a damn fine story in The Revenant of Thraxton Hall, the first of many I hope, set in the late 19th century and collected under the banner of ‘The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’. What is not immediately clear is that they also feature the charmingly witty, arrogant-as-you-like Oscar Wilde as Doyle’s esteemed friend and co-investigator…
Struggling to escape from the runaway popularity of his own creation (the indomitable Great Detective himself, Sherlock Holmes) and determined to kill him off once and for all, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle becomes embroiled in a case perfectly suited to the talent and skills his fictional detective would normally employ. He is called in to investigate a murder yet to happen — already ‘witnessed’ by a seer — and teams up with Oscar Wilde to get to the bottom of things. It’s a memorable pairing, and as unlikely as it seems, and whether you consider it boldly daring or utter madness for any author to write about these two celebrity giants, the duo soon discover they have a knack for investigating all things strange and perplexing.
The author has done a wonderful job of injecting humour into this remarkable tale, and it’s chock-full of thrills, action, suspense and derring-do, with Oscar Wilde brilliantly characterised as a dashing and arrogant ladies-man akin to DiCaprio’s Great Gatsby and Wolf of Wall Street combined. Meanwhile, the character of Conan Doyle is running away from his own creation, but still subsumed by the compelling angst and insolence one might expect through long-term association with the Great Detective. Revolving heavily around the (fictional?) Society for Psychical Research, the plot itself twists and turns, with walk-on parts for an eclectic mix of mediums, charlatans, levitating stage magicians, mysterious strangers, an animal familiar, and the ghostly apparition of Holmes himself… but just like a really tasty Ripple, Flake or Curly Wurly bar (take your pick), it’s positively mouth-watering stuff, and although the crumbs seem to fall all over the place, the author gathers them up with true aplomb.
As the debut novel of an intriguing new series, Revenant is delightfully swift reading, and when all is said and done, rather spiffing too. Marvellous fun.