The Angel of Highgate by Vaughn Entwistle

A Modern Victorian Gothic

TITLE: The Angel of Highgate

AUTHOR: Vaughn Entwistle

PLOT: The “wickedest man in London” plays hero in Gothic mystery



My reading interests tend, most of the time, toward classic lit (particularly British and Gothic lit, plus my interest in Dumas). Such being the case, it says much for the high degree of favorability I discovered in my perusal of Vaughn Entwistle’s THE ANGEL OF HIGHGATE.

The novel is elusive, in that, while engaging you with its uncanny mix of vibrant charm and dark violence, it flirts around with what the story is all about. At first, we’re kept in suspense about the shadowy figure in the fog, face obscured by a black bonnet – a specter the ribald anti-hero Sir Thraxton keeps witnessing in the cemetery, much to the skeptical dismay of his friend Algernon.

Algernon, a much more straight-laced individual than his rogue gentleman friend Thraxton, is nevertheless frequently dragged along on Thraxton’s impulsive adventures. Thraxton is by far the more dominant personality of the pair, though the more reserved “Algy” is no fop.

While Algernon continues his pursuit of a group of Spiritualist Church members – including a lovely young woman whom he wishes to court – Thraxton is off on his frequent nocturnal ramblings in the cemetery. There, he meets more than once his beloved specter, whom he believes an angel from beyond, able to reveal the mysteries of Death to the rich rake who also boasts a poetic and philosophic streak. Thraxton also runs into some murderous, grave-robbing ruffians, whose wealthier and more genteel boss’ dealings with a literary critic (and enemy of Thraxton) are alive with dire ulterior motives.

THE ANGEL OF HIGHGATE is as lush and charming as it is morbid, and the masterful fusion is pulled off with prose that is as rich as the more florid verbiage of classic lit, while also being as smooth and readable as other contemporary fiction. Entwistle’s prequel to his The Revenant of Thraxton Hall (which features Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde as characters), is a remarkably original book with the appealing charm of classic literature with the vividity of modern “literary” fiction.


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