In the 1800s, a young Irish artist meets a mysterious Englishman and becomes involved in his search for lost treasure.
William O’Brien, 19, is scrambling for survival as a penniless artist in Paris when he meets “a strange sort of chap” who calls himself Dr. Irel E. Vant. William helps him fend off an attack by masked assailants, and Dr. Vant offers him a job: caretaker of his English manor while he’s off chasing an ancient treasure, the location of which is known only to him. The house is filthy, tenanted by a pet vulture named Victor, and it comes with Dr. Vant’s Bluebeard-like proscription: “That door there, the northeast tower, must never be opened….I can assure you that if you should open that door and enter that room you forfeit the offer that I have extended to you and infinitely more.” As William cleans up with the help of a Mrs. Gillian, he also gets to know lovely young Cara, the daughter of a village shopkeeper. Meanwhile, Dr. Vant’s escapades include treasure hunting in a booby-trapped cave and meeting an ancient Atlantean—though Vant’s true agenda won’t become clear until the end. Jones provides an entertaining adventure with a varied cast and much pleasing paraphernalia, from a Victorian hovercraft to the curious muddle in Vant’s study: “charts, scrolls, notebooks, inkwells, hundreds of broken pen nibs.” William’s good heart and good humor help lighten the tone. William’s Irish brogue is as unconvincing as Jones’ idea of a French accent: “Ze Ztonehenge?” Some portions, particularly the cave expedition, are needlessly lengthened or repetitive, and the book would benefit from a cleanup to rid itself of goofs like “the massive canapé bed.”
Overlong, somewhat rough and barely Victorian, but it’s still an appealingly jumbled adventure with a good final twist.