The List of Seven by Mark Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Arthur Conan Doyle, doctor and aspiring author, witnesses black magic and murder at a seance. Soon, he finds himself on the run with Jack Sparks dragging him along. But is Jack Sparks an agent of the crown or an escaped mental patient? And why does a mysterious group want Doyle dead? And who are the people on the List of Seven?
A friend of mine started bugging me to read this in 2004. A decade later, I finally gave in.
The List of Seven is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche written by one of the co-creators of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost. It reads like Tim Powers writing an episode of Sherlock. In fact, I kept imagining Benedict Cumberbatch as Jack Sparks and Martin Freeman as Doyle.
Sparks and Doyle prove to be an effective team. I found Sparks' background incredibly interesting, as I did his sociopathic brother, Alexander. Doyle was a little more capable than Watson is normally portrayed, a master of deduction rivaling Jack Sparks.
This is a throwback to early steampunk, not the style over substance steampunk that's so popular these days. There are appearances by Victorian figures like Bram Stoker, Nigel Gull, and Queen Victoria, and also trains, mummies, zombies, and various other Victoriana, like seances and mediums. Again, it reminds me of Tim Power's Anubis Gates and other works, and also Jonathan Barnes' The Somnambulist and The Domino Men.
The writing itself was pretty good. There was a surprising amount of humor in the dialog. The plot about the cult was nothing spectacular since most cults in fiction have the same goals. The characters of Arthur Conan Doyle, Jack Sparks, and Alexander Sparks eclipsed the plot somewhere around the halfway mark.
If I had to complain about something, it would be the ending, which seems like it was probably changed at some point in the writing process to allow for sequels. It was kind of a copout. Other than that, I have no complaints. Four out of five stars.
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