Desert Isle Keeper
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
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.