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The List of Seven


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This first novel by the cocreator of Twin Peaks arrives amid much hype and expectation. After submitting a manuscript to a London publisher, young Arthur Conan Doyle becomes the target of an occult group that bears a coincidental likeness to the subject of his novel. To Doyle's aid comes Jack Sparks, a mysterious and resourceful figure who ultimately serves as Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. With enough twists and last-minute escapes to make it thrillingly palatable, The List of Seven seems a sure bet to climb the best seller lists. In the spirit of hyperbole, the publisher is planning to seal an epilog into the back cover to keep nosy Parkers from spoiling the book's ending. As if this were not enough to keep patrons drooling, Universal Studios is planning to release a movie version in summer 1994. All popular collections should purchase. Literary Guild main selection; Mystery Guild, Doubleday, and Science Fiction book club alternates; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/93. --Mark Annichiarico, ``Library Journal''

Occult forces of evil gather in Victorian England to scheme for world dominion in this lively but unconvincing period thriller by Twin Peaks co-creator Frost. The novel opens in London of 1884, where protagonist Arthur Conan Doyle, a moderately successful young doctor, unpublished author and part-time student of the supernatural, attends a seance at the request of an anonymous lady in distress. When the evening erupts into gruesome violence and murder, Doyle finds himself on the run, engaged in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a cadre of ruthless satanists bent on incarnating the spirit of evil. He finds an ally in the mysterious, resourceful and supremely capable Jack Sparks, on secret assignment to the Queen. Sparks's own brother is the mastermind of the ``Dark Brotherhood'' they oppose, and his character will, much later, supply Doyle with the inspiration for his Sherlock Holmes. Despite the appreciable wit and inventive flourishes with which Frost invests his tale, there is too much in this fast-paced plot that simply does not make sense. Frost creates mystery through an unseemly vagueness of description, perhaps awaiting the special effects of the screen to flesh out elements of his narrative. In the novel, however, his characters never become more than clever conceits, and the prevailing attitude toward the spiritualism at its center is frustratingly wishy-washy. The much-ballyhooed shocker ending seems a tepid afterthought. Movie rights to Universal. Literary Guild, Mystery Guild and Doubleday Book Clubs alternates. (Sept.)

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