30 Books in 30 Days, Vol. 2
In my defense, K.J. Charles has a long backlist, but I wish I would have read this particular one sooner. I feel like I say that with her all the time, but with how much I love Sherlock Holmes and mysteries and spooky shit, this one definitely should have been at the top of my TBR. I’m making my way through her entire backlist this year, because her next book isn’t coming until early 2023, so at least I’ve finally gotten around to it!
The title Casebook is, I think, very intentional. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named one of his short story collections for Sherlock Holmes The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, and the ones without that title are still all chronicles of his cases. But this is a secret casebook. Our Watson equivalent, Robert Caldwell, has chronicled the work of his partner, Simon Feximal, Ghost Hunter, publicly. The duo were famous (or infamous) in their own way, just like Watson and Holmes, except there battles were with the world under the world, and not with ordinary murder and crime: supernatural deaths, hauntings, possessions, and curses.
This book is what results when the fictional Caldwell decides to set the record straight about his personal relationship with Feximal. They were lovers, and there were certain cases Caldwell had never written about before because it would have been impossible for him to do so without revealing himself and their relationship. But now, presumably after his death, he wishes the truth to be known.
I really liked the “casebook” structure. There is an ongoing narrative, in that it chronicles their lives together in chronological order, but the chapters are made up of individual cases or stories that have their own beginnings, middles, and ends. The result is that we witness a lot of time pass in a short amount of pages, we get a lot of variety in the cases covered, and we can see how their relationship evolves. Several of the stories are very clever, and many of them pull from British folklore, urban legends, and Victorian pulp fiction (Charles notes in her afterword that one of the villains is from a popular book of the time, which is free to read on Project Gutenberg).
I read them in the wrong order, but once you read this if you want more from this particular world, The Spectred Isle takes place decades later, post WWI (which is where we last see Simon and Robert in this book). I liked that one very much, as well.