Author: Mark Frost
Publication Date: 1993
From the back of the book:
As the city of London slumbers, there are those in its midst who conspire to rule the world through the darkest and most nefarious means. These seven, seated in positions of extraordinary power and influence, marshal forces from the far side to aid them in their fiendish endeavor.
FORCE OF ONE
In the aftermath of a bloody seance and a terrifying supernatural contact, a courageous young doctor finds himself drawn into a malevolent conspiracy beyond human comprehension.
ALL OR NOTHING
The future is not safe, as a thousand-year reign of pure evil is about to begin, unless a small group of stalwart champions can unravel the unspeakable mysteries behind a crime far more terrible than murder.
My thoughts: Did you see the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie and wish that the super natural-esque things that went on were actually real and not just concoctions of science? If you did, then The List of Seven is definitely the book for you (even if you didn't like the movie, but love Holmes, read this). Certainly, when I picked up the book, I thought it sounded a little silly. I wanted to read the sequel first. Thankfully, this book didn't disappoint.
The story focuses around a young Arthur Conan Doyle, who is on the run from a "Dark Brotherhood" that seems to think his recent manuscript is a little too similar to their plans for comfort. They spare no expenses trying to track him down and kill him in order to stop the manuscript from being published. He meets Jack Sparks, a character that just screams Sherlock Holmes in all of his characteristics. Looking at Doyle and Sparks, you can see how Frost used the well-known Watson and Holmes dynamic to shape this partnership. Reviews on the back of the book say that the plot drives along like a speeding train, and it most certainly does--but in all the best ways possible. Filled with Holmsian logic and disguises, Frost does an excellent job shadowing the original canon.
Strong characters and outrageous leaps of deduction fill each chapter. It's hard not to love Doyle and Sparks, mirrors of the Watson and Holmes duo, as well as the twins Barry and Larry that follow Sparks and the late addition of Eileen as a strong and clever woman (not quite Irene Adler status, but close to it). The story takes the reader on a tour of England in the late 19th century, and Frost leaves more than a few interesting tidbits of food-for-thought along the way (some of which I'm not entirely too sure are true, but spark an interesting line of thought).
But in the end, the book doesn't quite leave you with a satisfied feel. True to the Holmes canon, Sparks and his nemesis (a character just as intimidating as Moriarty, though I'll leave the relationship for you to figure out) make their final stand on Reichenbach Falls. After learning this, Doyle sits down to write a story about his friend and their adventures--and you just know that the result is Sherlock Holmes. Still, the last few pages leave you going "OH MY GOD WAIT--DID THAT JUST--DID HE JUST--OHMAN." I have yet to read the second book (The Six Messiahs), but I'm hoping it will answer some of those open-ended questions from the first one.
Long review short, if you're looking for a good period mystery-thriller (I was when I went to the book store), go for this. It keeps you turning the pages, and going "Okay, I'll put it down at the end of the chapter" (enough though the chapters are long). If you like Sherlock Holmes--the movie, the books, what have you--you'll most certainly love this book. Familiar characters appear with different faces, but it's very clear on how Mark Frost made their influences on Doyle in order to influence his creation of Sherlock Holmes. There is no end to the suspense, and certainly no end to the supernatural that follows along behind Sparks and Doyle.