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The List of 7 by Mark Frost


The List of 7 is a book that is so ridiculous that it's great. The hero is a pre-Sherlock Arthur Conan Doyle. He is a struggling doctor who has a decent life, but aspires to more. He gets a letter inviting him to a seance, and he decides to go. The seance soon turns into a murder scene, but not before he falls for the lady who invited him. Unfortunately, she is the victim of said murder. Before Doyle can become the next victim, he is saved by a man who bursts into the room. The duo gets chased by creatures who look like men, but seem impervious to pain. 

Doyle's savior turns out to be Jack Sparks, a secret agent of the crown. He has been chasing down a criminal conspiracy with an occult flavor. Doyle soon learns that all his belongings have been gelatinized. Events start to spin out of control and he finds himself getting sucked into a spiral of ever crazier events as he becomes Sparks' comrade in arms against a Lovecraftian plot by several nobles and notables, one of whom happens to be the older brother of Jack Sparks.

Alexander Sparks is a criminal mastermind who runs all the illegal operations in London and many beyond. Like Jack he is a master of disguise and of several martial arts. He has a keen mind and a twisted spirit, which is illustrated in Jack recounting of his family history to Doyle in which Alexander is revealed to be guilty of infanticide, rape, murder, even including the ultimate Oedipal offense. But Jack is not alone in his endeavors to stop the deranged occultist. Besides Doyle, he has two helpers, twin brothers and ex-criminals Larry and Barry. They are later joined by another surprise companion.

Doyle isn't the only historical figure present in the novel, but most aren't that important to the plot.  William Gull and Prince Eddie both play a large part despite not showing up until late in the story. Madame Blavatsky does play a small role, but the rest are mostly disposable. There is a Jack the Ripper murder that it seems for a bit the police suspect Doyle in, but that suspicion apparently vanishes and the murders play no further part in the story even though it seems like they would have been easy. especially as Dr Gull has been listed as a suspect in some books on the murders. It seems like Bram Stoker might have a part to play, but then he exits the narrative without having really contributed anything and it becomes clear that he is present only to suggest that Alexander Sparks inspires Dracula in the same way that Jack Sparks inspires Sherlock Holmes. The least useful historical cameo is when Doyle visits Germany and bumps into baby Adolf Hitler.

Despite that silliness, and in some cases because of it, this is a really fun read. It's not much a mystery, like you might expect based on it being about the inspiration for the greatest fictional detective. It's more of a supernatural action story. There are definite horror elements, which I love. The book doesn't have much romance, but there is just a touch. It's really more of a bromance book though. The historical details are nice, but I'm not enough of a history buff to know how accurate they are. The author does a nice job of setting the mood, not surprising for the writer and co-creator of Twin Peaks. I tried to resist too many spoilers, because I'm hoping people will pick this one up and give it a read for themselves.

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