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Desert Isle Keeper

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal

K.J. Charles

This book is a magnificent read and homage to the tradition of Victorian paranormal stories, and their ilk.

I wish I could just let my review be those words, but if I did, I’d probably be drummed out of the ‘Reviewers Union’ 😉

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is almost the ‘queering’ of Holmes and Watson; however, it also reads as a perfect love story between Simon Feximal and his devoted ‘sidekick’ Robert Caldwell.

Caldwell sends the true account of his life with Simon Feximal, famed Victorian ghost-hunter, to an editor for publication only after Robert’s death. Although this novel is often a light-hearted narrative, it does remind us how sad it is to be the dearly loved partner of someone for many years, but remain invisible. The stories hint at the heartbreak caused when you are constantly aware of how much you touch someone in public; how hard it is never to be able to spontaneously comfort your partner as you would wish. Finally, it details the difficulties of living a married life that is and has to be, unacknowledged.

Being a casebook the book written episodically, but flows so well it reads as one novel. I loved the scary recollections, the paranormal entities Simon, Robert, and occasionally others, fight through the villages and towns of Victorian England. Likewise, I loved the story of how these wonderful men became inextricably bound together through these events.

I know some readers will have read a couple of the stories already in their previously published short story editions, but I’m glad I hadn’t because I didn’t know what to expect, which added to my fun.

I have read many books by K.J. Charles and really liked them all – but this book I fell in love with. I am stingy with my ‘A’grades, although I have I have given several ‘A-‘s since I began reviewing for AAR. However, I give The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal a resounding A; it’s a DIK par excellence.

I have to congratulate the author on her research, because there is nothing in this novel that feels anachronistic – no dialogue or phrase that wrench you from the Victorian world of Simon and Robert. The background stories, the clubs and acquaintances mentioned – all are authentic and deliciously atmospheric. I have even been to Winchester Cathedral and seen the Peter des Roches tomb although I did not know the butterflies story – *shivers*.

This novel combines romance with paranormal fear and humour perfectly, as illustrated by this line –

Occasionally, when one looks into the pit, the pit looks back. Sometimes it winks.

It’s a lovely mix of Nietzsche, Poe, and pure K.J. Charles.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      BJ Jansen


Grade :     A


Sensuality :      Warm


Book Type :     


Review Tags :      |


12 Comments

  1. Em Wittmann
    Em Wittmann November 28, 2016 at 8:07 am - Reply

    I’ve been working my way through Jordan Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin series. I know they’re linked to this somehow. Did those characters appear in this book? I’ve liked the W&G stories I’ve read, but I haven’t been blown away. I was MAYBE thinking of moving on to something else. IF they’re linked, I will persevere! This review makes me want to drop everything & go read this one ASAP!

    • KJ Charles November 28, 2016 at 9:28 am - Reply

      Author here, Emily! Jordan and I wrote a linked free story, Remnant, in which Simon and Robert of the Casebook meet Whyborne and Griffin, to mutual dismay. It takes place in between two of the Casebook stories, and in between two of the W&G books, and you can get it free from Smashwords. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/404000

      • Em Wittmann
        Em Wittmann November 28, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

        KJ –
        Thank you! I was a bit confused about the reading order/overlap. All sorted!
        em

    • BJ Jansen
      BJ Jansen November 28, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Can’t improve on KJ’s reply Em, but I really would drop everything and read this book!

      • Em Wittmann
        Em Wittmann November 28, 2016 at 2:37 pm - Reply

        BJ –
        Okay.
        em

        • BJ Jansen
          BJ Jansen November 29, 2016 at 8:06 am - Reply

          Em – do let me know what you think 🙂

          • Em Wittmann
            Em Wittmann November 29, 2016 at 9:50 am

            Because I have such a hard time picking up a series out of order, I decided to persevere with the W&G series to bring me to this one. So, I’m reading the 3rd novel, then Remnant & than this. They’ll keep me busy over the next few days! BTW I should be reading Susanna Craig’s newest & sending my review in. Don’t tell Caz. Ha! 🙂

          • EMILY WITTMANN December 2, 2016 at 6:40 am

            BJ –

            I loved it. I thought each of the stories were the perfect length – though I wish there were soooo many more of them. As usual, Ms. Charles shows a deft hand balancing the ‘story’ and the romance. Although for me, the romance between Simon and Robert, and their deep and abiding love they have, is what truly earns this story the A. I hate/loved how it ended – I still haven’t decided.

            I recommend you pick up Remnant (the Whyborne & Griffin tie in). It’s a charming little bonus scene & the interplay between the 4 men is excellent.

            Simon reminds me a bit of Stoker in Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning. I liked them both – a lot!

            em

  2. Danie November 29, 2016 at 11:35 am - Reply

    Love this book and all of K.J. Charles’ books. I was a bit skeptical about this one since it’s really a collection of stories rather than a novel but I should not have doubted Ms. Charles. I second your review; this is a wonderful read. Maybe I’ll read it again today.

    • BJ Jansen
      BJ Jansen November 30, 2016 at 8:51 am - Reply

      I was the same Danie, which is why I hadn’t read any when available as short stories separately, but as you say we shouldn’t doubt Ms. Charles 😉

  3. nblibgirl December 1, 2016 at 1:14 am - Reply

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, and I’ve really liked everything else I’ve read by this author. Not sure why I’ve delayed so long on this one but you’ve convinced me. Thanks!

  4. Althea Claire Duffy December 1, 2016 at 9:31 am - Reply

    I’ve had some iffy experiences with historical paranormals where the paranormal elements were really jarring and out of place in a way that broke my suspension of disbelief – large-scale, open high fantasy-style battles with obviously supernatural beings just don’t work well, IMO, when the premise is “just our world but there are secretly demons/wizards/vampires/whatever” as opposed to a clearly fantastical alternate history. (The same problem sometimes also applies to contemporary paranormal for me – I’m mostly a constructed/secondary world fantasy person.) But KJ’s historical Think of England and contemporary romantic suspense Non-Stop Till Tokyo (not to mention her blog) are so good that I trust her to handle historical PNR with her usual grace, sensitivity, and self-assured narrative virtuosity – so I look forward to reading this and the Flight of Magpies series, both of which I’ve already bought.

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