The Game’s Afoot

The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Case Books of Arthur Conan Doyle, by Vaughn Entwistle

I delight in the many ways Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes character has evolved over the years, first under Doyle’s hand and then again and again as others have picked up the character. Yes, there are a million Holmes variations out there, but there’s always room for another good one. My personal favorites are Annelie Wendeberg’s Anna Kronberg series (a woman who cross-dresses in order to pursue a career as a Victorian-era epidemiologist and who crosses paths with, then works with Holmes) and Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series (another cross-dressing young woman, who fist studies under, then partners with, then marries Holmes). I’ve also enjoyed Carole Nelson Douglas’s Irene Adler series (you may remember her as the only woman to ever defeat Holmes as related in “A Scandal in Bohemia”), though these keep lurching perilously close to the romance genre, which is not my cup of tea at all.

Vaughn Entwistle’s The Revenant of Thraxton Hall makes a great addition to the Holmes canon. Holmes is actually a minor character in this, the first volume in the series. The real detectives are Arthur Conan Doyle himself and his friend (yes, they were real-world friends) Oscar Wilde. Holmes makes his appearance as an occasional hallucination who pricks Doyle’s mind, nudging him along the path to a solution.

The Doyle and Wilde characters are distinct and engaging, making good foils for one another, and the visual details make it easy to picture this unlikely duo on the case together. In reality, Doyle was interested in (perhaps hoodwinked by would be a more accurate way of putting it) the paranormal “research” going on in his era. He accepted the Piltdown hoax as a genuine anthropological find. He also advocated in support of the Cottingley fairy photos. Given this, a “paranormal casebook” strikes one as just his sort of thing.

Entwistle does a particularly good job of extending the mystery’s resolution with a series of complications that add some real surprise to the narrative. The reader thinks the case is closed, then—Bam!—one more revelation, and —Bam!—yet another revelation after that one. This is the first volume in what promises to be a series, and I’m quite glad more volumes will be coming along.

I am not claiming that The Revanant of Thraxton Hall is great literature, but I am most definitely stating that it’s a great read. Once you start it, you’ll want to keep going, so best to begin reading when you’ve got a full day open to get lost in the fun. When you need a book that’s the equivalent a self-indulgent stay at a seaside resort, you can count on these paranormal casebooks to deliver.