My post from a few weeks ago about Puzzle-like Plots made me think of one of my favorite books in that vein, Thomas Wheeler’s The Arcanum. While I prefer historical-based fiction set earlier in history (especially the Middle Ages), The Arcanum (which is set in 1919) concerns the Book of Enoch, an ancient Jewish text that tells the whole story behind that curious verse in Genesis 6:4 – “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days ... when the sons of God went into the daughters of men, who bore children to them.” Puzzle-like plots based on religious mysteries are among my favorites, so The Arcanum was right up my alley.
I recently wrote a review of the novel of Goodreads.com and Amazon.com, but I’ve re-posted it here, after a picture of the book’s cover:
The Arcanum is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read from beginning to end. I’d describe the novel as historical fantasy, though some have called it an occult thriller. Regardless, with a name like “Arcanum” you should expect some magic and plenty of supernatural happenings. The novel is premised on Enochian myth, much like Danielle Trussoni’s Angelology.
Set in 1919, after the end of World War I, the story begins as a whodunit, with the main character, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, playing the role of his fictional alter ego, Sherlock Holmes. He’s joined by Harry Houdini, H.P. Lovecraft and voodoo queen Marie Laveau, and together they investigate the death of Konstantin Duvall, the leader of their secret occult group called The Arcanum. After they realize Duvall’s death may be connected with theft of the Book of Enoch, a lost book of the bible that supposedly chronicles God’s mistakes, their investigation takes a supernatural turn as they uncover secrets about an ancient conflict between light and darkness. The fact that the characters are Doyle, Houdini and Lovecraft make this a fun read (the author even pays homage to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu at one point), and Laveau’s voodoo really spices up the story. The book is fast-paced, so you’ll rip through it like one of Dan Brown’s thrillers. But the mythology at the core of the plot is what makes it so special. I’ve read this book twice now, and loved it each time.