The Dead Assassin: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by Vaughn Entwistle, (Minotaur Books, Macmillan), 352 pages, release date 9 June, 2015
A little over a year ago, I reviewed the first volume in Vaughn Entwistle’s Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series. Now, Entwistle is putting friends and co-investigators Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde back together again in a novel that opens with a great set-up. Charlie Higginbottom, a pickpocket, has brutally murdered one of the leading figures in Her Majesty’s government. What makes this a paranormal case? Well, Higginbottom had been hanged at Newgate Prison two weeks earlier in front of dozens of witnesses.
The personal lives of each man are growing more complex. Conan Doyle is falling in love with Jean Leckie as his wife Touie grows ever weaker from the tuberculosis that will ultimately take her life. Wilde’s eye seems to be wandering more frequently, and warily, toward handsome young men.
As both men juggle these complications, they find themselves in the middle of a plot to bring down the government. They are simultaneously helped and harried by the enigmatic “Cypher,” who runs a top-secret intelligence gathering team out of Whitehall Palace. Men of importance in government and industry continue to die, and soon Conan Doyle and Wilde themselves are threatened.
If you’re looking for a page-turning summer adventure novel that leans towards the steampunk and contains plenty of literary badinage, this is the book for you. Take it to the beach for a weekend and immerse yourself in the fog-shrouded mysteries of London while you catch a bit of sun.