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3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  471 Ratings  ·  64 Reviews
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, Konsta
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Bantam Books (first published 2003)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Apr 03, 2010 Clare rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
If Stephenie Meyer and Dan Brown had a baby, that baby would have grown up into Thomas Wheeler and it would have written this book. The writing is clunky and in places it's absolutely nonsensical. The plot is difficult to follow, which is a shame, because I think it could have been fantastic. The whole time I was reading it, I just kept thinking it was so close, yet so unbelievably far away.

My chief issue with the novel was the treatment of the female characters. Each time a woman is introduced
How do you mess up a story about Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, and Houdini attempting to avert the end of the world by recovering a lost volume of arcane lore and dubious provenance? Just ask Thomas Wheeler.

Start by failing to do any kind of historical or biographical research whatsoever. Lovecraft was social guy with a wide correspondence and a fairly excellent sense of humor, which makes him a far more complex personality than the Reclusive Necromancer Wheeler paint-by-numbers here. Doy
Sep 07, 2007 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mystery fans
Recommended to Rebecca by: Al Ruby
I actually bought this book a couple of years ago on the recommedation of a co-worker back when I worked for a book store.

I'm sorry it took me so long to read it. It was surprisingly good. After "Dante Club" by Matthew Pearl, I honestly didn't think I'd find any author able to fuse well known historical literary figures into a story and not have it come across as cheesey or cheap. Thomas Wheeler did a great job. Not only did I believe that I was reading the interactions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyl
Jeremiah Genest
Oct 08, 2007 Jeremiah Genest rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I got this cheap at the bookstore at the airport. Not a lot of choice. And it waasn't that good. First of all, the depicitions of Laveau, Houdini, Lovecraft and Doyle seemed wrong. Tim Powers has a quote somewhere that when writing historical fantasy its important to fill in the gaps. This one just uses names and doesn't care about the characters. It read like a poor screenplay turned into a book. Blah
Feb 26, 2008 Anthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book was AWESOME. it had everything. Lost tribes of Angels, gonstic gospel knowledge, historical fiction, H.P. Lovecraft as a character in the book, a twisted plot I didn't see all the way through until it came about at the end. Uber-rich Satanists... you name it. WOW!

I mean sure, not high-brow fiction but one HELL of a joyride through the occult and early American.
The book begins with a silly, but fairly entertaining, premise: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H.P. Lovecraft and voodoo priestess Marie Laveau form a group of sleuths tracking down supernatural events. Turning historical personages into 21st century-styled action heroes is hardly necessary, but is harmless enough. At first. Unfortunately, somewhere near the middle of the story, the plot moves rapidly from silly to preposterous to ridiculous. Anytime Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houd ...more
Brent Merrill
The plot is essentially League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with real historical figures instead of literary ones. I would watch the TV show in a heartbeat but getting through the book itself was a bit of a drag. There are odd moments were you look at this detail or that and go oh, well the author did some research. The next page however will have some random bit of anachronism that leaves you confused. Read it if you like comics and don't expect much.
Mar 02, 2008 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: junk-food-lit
OK - This one was a guilty pleasure. An occult thriller in which a team consists of Harry Houdini, Marie Laveau, H.P. Lovecraft, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? It's like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but with real people (yet equally far-fetched).
Feb 24, 2007 Robyn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tries to be the Last Templar meets Rule of Four meets Da Vinci Code meets League of Extraordinary Gentlemen... And it just fails miserably.
João  Cardeira Jorge
May 24, 2017 João Cardeira Jorge rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Michael Bay Fans
Shelves: pulp-fiction, action
Well Thomas Wheeler is mostly a script writer and it shows. What we have here is a cool idea and very well though out action set-pieces. It might work in a movie, with a huge budget and the charisma of the actors carrying the flawed script. But this is a book. It needs well written characters, with arcs, a plot that makes sense and a developed villain. Basic elements that no matter how “light reading” the author is producing, must be in the book. They are sorely lacking here. There's a lot of ac ...more
Philip Jean-Pierre
A pretty good book. Overall a great story of some iconic characters of the occult world during rise of the age Western esotericism. Hard to avoid the comparisons with League of Extraordinary Gentleman but this is a more macabre and cynical take on historical figures fighting the dark. The ending is a little dragged out but overall I enjoyed the hell out of this book
Retro review*

I read this schlocky action-horror fest some years back and, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, decided to revisit it. While I recall thinking it an okay popcorn read, really it’s pretty dumb, chock full of cliches, plot holes, historical blunders, and shallow characterizations. When I read it, I was unaware that the author, Thomas Wheeler, is a successful screenwriter, but I could tell its cinematic roots from the first scene, you can practically hear the bombastic, overbearing
This is an AWESOME book!! It combines well-written historical fiction with a suspense thrill-ride that will keep you racing through the pages to find out how it all ends!!

The author does a terrific job of taking what we actually know about the personalities of the historical figures who are the main characters in the story - Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, and Marie Laveau - and adding to that the appropriate behaviours that are needed to move the plot forward.

The four main c
Joseph Finley
Jul 25, 2011 Joseph Finley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Arcanum is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read from beginning to end. I’d describe the novel as historical fantasy, though some have called it an occult thriller. Regardless, with a name like “Arcanum” you should expect some magic and plenty of supernatural happenings. The novel is premised on Enochian myth, much like Danielle Trussoni’s Angelology.

Set in 1919, after the end of World War I, the story begins as a whodunit, with the main character, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, playing the role o
Jun 07, 2015 Liz rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Normally, I appreciate popcorn books that feel like movie treatments. Fast pacing and numerous plot twists can make for a fun read. This book, while fun in an outlandish way, left a bad taste in my mouth for two reasons.

One was that the characters not only felt one-dimensional, but there were so many of them, all jostling for narrative space, that the story became crowded and difficult to keep up with. I couldn't emotionally invest myself in any character, and as a result, didn't care about the
Sarah Sammis
Apr 30, 2011 Sarah Sammis rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: jennymidget
Shelves: pc, read-in-2011
The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler was recommended to me by a friend. I can't remember the exact context of the recommendation but it came with a physical copy of the book.

The book begins with Arthur Conan Doyle in New York to help solve a murder and exonerate his friend H.P. Lovecraft. He gets help from Harry Houdini. Together the three of them as well as a woman who should have been dead and buried are part of a secret society called The Arcanum.

The purpose of the Arcanum is built on the same mytho
Lisa Wolf
"The Arcanum" was clearly written by a screenwriter. No character development, no sublety. Yes, there's a cute gimmick -- the main characters are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H. P. Lovecraft, and Marie Laveau, with drop-by appearances by William Hearst and Alastair Crowley. Together, our heroes fight evil and save the world. By using these well-known personae, the author avoids any need to flesh out his characters into actual people. Reading this, I felt like I was reading a comic book ...more
Oct 21, 2009 Mike rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent thriller in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vein, though it ultimately ends up feeling more like the movie than the graphic novel. The setting is post-WWI New York, and this time it's Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Marie Leveau, and H.P. Lovecraft facing off against Aleister Crowley and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The plot is kind of muddled (something about angels and the Book of Enoch), feeling at times like nothing more than a blueprint for a Hollywood blockbuste ...more
Catherine Siemann
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Marie Laveau, and H. P. Lovecraft: they fight supernatural crime! Can you think of anything more fun? Alas, I can. The Arcanum is a first novel by a successful screenwriter, and it shows -- it's fast-paced, adventurous, and shallow. While Wheeler's clearly done his research, he doesn't let history or character get in the way of telling the story he has in mind, which involves lost angels, a missing book of the Bible, and Aleister Crowley. It's a quick, fun, ...more
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
Really 3 1/2...

It wasn't bad - but it just didn't ever get great. Someone mentioned that the portrayals of the historical characters seemed off, and I have to agree - with the caveat that I don't actually know much about the historical figures portrayed in this story. They just seemed sort of like charicatures.

The mystery element was ok, but didn't really have the suspense that I like in these sorts of books. I wasn't on the proverbial edge of my seat... and I didn't HAVE to finish it to find ou
Heidi Ward
The premise may sound wacky, but "The Arcanum" was much darker and more disturbing than I expected (a definite plus for me!). Wheeler's first novel is a thoroughly entertaining alternative history/steampunk/horror concoction, which would indeed make a great action film. It probably helps to know something about Biblical apocrypha, hermetic occult circles, voodoo and Lovecraftian horrors . . . but if even one of those is your bag, dig in for a rollicking read which also delivers several serious c ...more
Feb 18, 2010 Nikki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, this was one was a bit out there. You had to go with the flow in terms of how the author characterized these famous personages, but once you got into it, the story had a breakneck pace and I loved the twists and turns. I think Harry Houdini was the best--and probably the most accurate--in character. I think Wheeler did better with his original characters than with the members of the Arcanum (Marie Leveau, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, etc.) If you're into horror, though, Wheeler has a ...more
Lazaj Ermal
This book has a lot of plot gaps that confuse the reader. Ita has a very intersting story but that is not enought. Character are not well designed and you see only the surface of what they are. Also there are too much logical errors in what happen and in what order things happening. Last but not least, ther are useless scenes and action (descriptions too) that do not help nethier plot flow nor reading. I hope it could be writen again and more carefully.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the best writing style, but given that this was his first novel he had written, I'm quite happy. I really liked the story and plot and how all the characters interacted with each other. Some of the story tends to be a bit slow at times and it seems to end abruptly, but at least things come together. All in all, it's a book I would recommend someone to read but probably won't be reading it again any time soon.
Jun 09, 2016 Paddythemic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"ever since I was a boy, I’ve been different. I was shunned by other children. I didn’t understand their games; I couldn’t kick or throw balls. I found their discourse obtuse and primitive. Truly, I believed that I was from some distant planet, that I’d somehow been orphaned on a world of violent monkeys.” (fictional Lovecraft)

fun stuff; not in the same league as The Alienist (Carr), but fun nevertheless.
I started out really enjoying this but by the half way point I really had to keep myself motivated to keep reading. It took a paranormal twist too far into it. I enjoy a good paranormal book but this novel just felt like the author just kept adding more elements to keep the drama going instead of letting the story flow naturally. I ended up skimming the last few chapters just so I could finish it and put an end to it.
Aug 03, 2008 tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Nice first-time book. Quite a good story, well written, and kept me in suspense. I liked the authors decision to make the real-life characters actually be like their notorious images. In the book, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle IS a nimble-minded sleuth. Harry Houdini IS magical. And H.P. Lovecraft IS a master of the dark arts and ancient taboos.

A nice book to kill some time with.
Tornike Gochashvili
very exciting and thrilling. lots of secrets and mystics.
But as I remember, in the Book of Enoch is not mentioned Lucifer. There is Azazel, Samyaza and others, but not Lucifer... Anyway, I like this book.
This book inspired me to make a music:
Mar 22, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This book definitely has its weaknesses. I was getting a bit tired of weeding through the setup of characters still going on around page 100. The second half, however, picked up a bit and was more energetic. Not the greatest of historical fiction...but a potential start from which the novelist could grow -- an interesting premise that seems both unique and familiar.
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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.
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“But as we’ve said before, there is great power in all of us, if only we channel that power into action.” 3 likes
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