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Another vastly entertaining outing for Arthur Conan Doyle, whom Frost (The List of 7, 1993) seems bent on starring in lurid adventures to rival those of the Scottish physician's own storied hero, Sherlock Holmes. It's 1894, and Doyle (a successful author at 35) is off to tour the US, where Holmes is wildly popular with the reading public. On the boat coming over, with younger brother Innes in tow, he renews acquaintances with Jack Sparks (one of Queen Victoria's more secretive agents and a Holmesian avatar) in the course of investigating an attempted theft made even more intriguing by subsequent killings. Once in the New World, Doyle and Sparks (thought to have perished in a fight to the death at, yes, Reichenbach Falls in the Swiss Alps) join forces to track down the villains who have been stealing treasured books from great religions (the Church of England's Vulgate Bible, India's Upanishad, Jewry's Tikkunei, etc.). In the course of their inquiries, they cross paths with six visionaries, including a homicidal Japanese monk and a gifted Native American woman (called Walks Alone), who have all dreamed of a black tower rising in the desert. The trail eventually leads to New City, a closed community outside the aptly named Phoenix in the territory of Arizona. Here, a bogus reverend (known to his cult as A. Glorious Day) keeps a well-armed band of disciples in thrall to an unholy creed of his own devising. Day (the current alias of Alexander Sparks, Jack's Moriarity-like brother) is indeed building an ominous black tower in which he plans to stage an apocalyptic burning of the sacred works purloined by his operatives. With an assist from a local gunslinger, Doyle & Co. arrive in time to tip the balance in the Sunbelt's bloody version of Armageddon and consign the Antichrist to whatever fate holds for him on the other side. Haute folderol from a master of the game.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Morrow