Conan Doyle and Wilde are both fully realized, rounded characters, not heroes. The struggles of their historical lives are artfully intermingled with their fictional problems in just the right dose. It’s obvious that Mr. Entwistle has done plenty of research on the famous writers, and it shows in an unstuffy way.
Most of the other characters in the book are solid, and Mr.Entwistle writes with an assured, solid hand. There are a few times where some more experimental sections get away from him, but he remains in firm control for most of the way. The big, busy plot flies along, and there is plenty of action. I was fond of the way Mr. Entwistle conveyed the protagonist’s valor without turning them into action-movie heroes. So all of the derring do is more satisfying when you realize that it’s being performed by a couple of well-intentioned writers.
The first novel had a group of interesting scenes where Holmes showed up to the day-dreaming Conan Doyle to act as a back-seat driver concerning Conan Doyle’s detective skills, or lack of them. Mr. Entwistle jettisons those sections here. I found them enjoyable, but their absence has little effect on the final product. It just goes to show that an author doesn’t have to follow a formula for a book to be a success, and The Dead Assassin is solid proof.