Synopses & Reviews
New York City, 1919, is on the edge of a glittering new decade when a series of grisly murders begins. The police are helpless. But one group of scientists and people of learning have sworn to suss out the evil behind the slaughters, be it human or inhuman. They call themselves the Arcanum.
Traveling incognito following the suspicious death of the Arcanum's leader in London, member Sir Arthur Conan Doyle arrives to New York. Doyle calls on his Arcanum comrades: the world's greatest magician, Harry Houdini; fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft; and the notorious voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. They must probe the underbelly of the occult to discover a power darker and stronger than they've ever faced.
Blending historical fact, an acute eye for detail, and an imaginative take on some of the early twentieth century's most famous and infamous characters, The Arcanum is a fresh, cool, bracing read.
"In screenwriter Wheeler's cinematic debut novel, an occult thriller set in New York City in 1919, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his fellow members of a secret society known as the Arcanum including magician Harry Houdini and voodoo priestess Marie Laveau investigate a gruesome murder, rescue horror writer H.P. Lovecraft from jail, consult evil mystic Aleister Crowley, learn the truth behind the ancient Book of Enoch, try to solve the mystery of a tribe of lost angels and otherwise save the world. All the supernatural shenanigans, however, can't disguise that these characters, with their contemporary sensibilities, are crude caricatures of their real-life originals. Lovecraft, for example, is reduced to a perverse boyish demonologist, while Laveau is a sexpot who speaks in a Caribbean patois: 'So, how we s'posed to get him outta that jail?' Each vividly written chapter is so obviously a film scene that credit should be given for art direction. The author uses nearly every landmark available in 1919 New York for a setting, but a wealth of well-researched period detail is no substitute for a true feeling for an era's zeitgeist. Those seeking thought-provoking 'secret history' would do better to turn to the fiction of Tim Powers (Last Call) or Alexander C. Irvine (A Scattering of Jades). Agent, Mel Berger at William Morris. (Apr. 27) Forecast: Blurbs from Clive Barker and Wes Craven will help fuel interest in Hollywood: think Crispin Glover as Lovecraft, Halle Berry as Marie Laveau, Scarlett Johansson as a lost angel. Wheeler has an eight-hour miniseries about the Roman emperor Augustus, Empire, due from ABC this fall. With a sequel to The Arcanum in the works, can a miniseries be far behind?" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[M]ostly incomprehensible....Much ado about a sillier-than-average MacGuffin." Kirkus Reviews
"Wheeler's fast-paced style is enhanced by the complex relationships he builds among his historical characters. While this novel resembles...The Alienist in its setting and use of historical figures as characters, it is not as well written." Library Journal
"The Arcanum is a first-class thriller; superbly crafted, it moves like lightning, creating a world where historical fact and wild invention are interwoven. Marvellous stuff!" Clive Barker, author of Coldheart Canyon and Abarat
"From some dark bridge between history and fiction, Thomas Wheeler's The Arcanum throws the reader into a midnight's maelstrom of mystery, thrills, and pure adrenaline fun. Hold your breath and enjoy the ride!" Wes Craven, director of the Scream and Nightmare on Elm St. series
"The Arcanum may be lacking in depth, but it is definitely worth checking out by readers on the lookout for some light action-adventure or anyone interested in the book's key historical figures." SciFi.com
"The Arcanum will appeal to fans of mystery and mayhem who like their action full-throttled and a tad on the fantastical side....[A]n ambitious novel that aspires to till the fields of the imagination successfully worked by writers like Caleb Carr." SciFiDimensions.com
Set in New York City in 1919, this thriller combines the fascinating forensic and historical detail of The Alienist with breathtaking action, as a secret alliance of investigators including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini seeks a lost, dark book of the Bible.
It is 1919 and the Great War has come to a close. But in the shadows of the world's major cities, the killing has just begun. In this perilous time, as the division between order and chaos grows increasingly slim, a select group of visionaries have taken it upon themselves to ensure the safety of humanity. They are known as the Arcanum.
In London's stormy Hyde Park, Konstantin Duvall, the Arcanums founder, has been killed in a suspicious accident. Dismayed, the group's longest-lived member, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, determines to avenge Duvall's death and uncover the secret left in his wake. For the dead man possessed the worlds most powerful now missing artifact: the Book of Enoch, the chronicle of God's mistakes, within whose pages lie the seeds for the end of everything.
From the scene of the crime, Conan Doyle embarks on a path that leads him to the sleazy underworld of New York City's Bowery and a series of deceptively disparate but decidedly connected murders. And as he calls upon the scattered members of the Arcanum for aid, he also finds himself embroiled in a story of war as old as time itself. Not of a struggle between countries, but between darkness and light.
Peopled with the twentieth century's most famous and infamous figures, here is an extraordinary tale in which the stakes go beyond the realm of humankind into the divine.
About the Author
Thomas Wheeler sold his first screenplay at age twenty-two, to Twentieth Century Fox. He has continued to work on major Hollywood features for the last several years. Wheeler lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Christina, and his son, Luca. The Arcanum is his first novel.