Review: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, by K.J. Charles

Blurb:

cover-kjcharles-thesecretcasebookofsimonfeximalA story too secret, too terrifying—and too shockingly intimate—for Victorian eyes.

A note to the Editor

Dear Henry,

I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost-hunters far and wide.

You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.

So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.

I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.

Robert Caldwell
September 1914


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Edition read:
June 16, 2015
Samhain Publishing
Historical-Victorian, Paranormal-Ghosts, M/M, LGBT+
224 e-book pages
1st person
Stand-Alone (or compilation of previously published shorts)
August 1-2, 2016
Kindle Edition
See the book on GoodReads.

Rating:     ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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Review:

It seems I have a knack for choosing the best (or worst) times to read particular books. This one, I happened to pick up during a massive summer thunderstorm. The power had just gone out from lightning zapping a nearby transformer…and subsequently four others on my street along with a few trees (one in my own front yard). Cut off from the world as I was in the eerie quiet of darkness (except for raging storm sounds) but with a full battery on my Kindle (because Girl Scout), I wanted to read…as one does. So I went searching my tablet for an unread book, and I remembered I had a K.J. Charles I bought during an amazing sale a few months ago. I just hadn’t gotten ‘round to it.

I figured anytime is a good time for K.J. Charles. Right?

Right.

So I merrily dove right in, not recalling what it was about in the slightest.

Low and behold: A Ghost Book.

In the dark.

Rain pelting the roof and windows, falling in buckets.

Foreboding thunder rattling the house.

Dogs cowering under furniture.

Great.

In the event you’re new here: I’M A HUGE GODDAMN SCAREDY CAT.

Even big storms frighten me — but I’m way better about them now than I was even a year ago. But paranormal things and ghosts? Err…I’m still more afraid of the things I can’t see.

But of course, I soldiered on. BECAUSE K.J. CHARLES. Obviously.

So…book thoughts-n-stuff now that I’ve survived to tell the tale.

Honestly, I really loved this, and it was a blast to read even if I did neglect to breathe a few times when things got tense.

This book is written as a memoir; an expanded account of previously told adventurous tales written by Robert and published over the years as his companion to Simon the ghost-hunter. As the time-setting dictates, being gay in the Victorian era of England was a crime, punishable by jail time and other reprehensible cruelties. Robert’s original tales edited himself out for the most part. So, as a request to a friend, he fills in the gaps, writes himself in, tells the truth of a 20+ year loving, committed relationship and leaves the words to their fate after his death.

I LOVED the style, especially how Robert occasionally stepped into his present-day as digging back into memories continued to affect him. It was similar to the fourth wall being removed and glimpsing and older, wiser Robert still so moved by his love and devotion to Simon that he couldn’t help but to compare the past to the present.

Simon was a man of few words, abrupt, sometimes oafish, bullheaded and socially awkward. All those qualities were endearing, though he probably wouldn’t appreciate being told such niceties.  Though he didn’t often verbalize his devotion, it never seemed that Robert questioned it or felt undesired.

The ghostly ghoulish gobliny business — ahem — squicked me out a few times. I always wonder how these authors who write paranormal come up with this business. Is it in the water? A dietary thing? I just…my nightmares don’t even go to these places. But, from what I could glean from reading between my fingers covering my eyes and jumping every time the thunder clapped, it was supremely well done. I’m convinced K.J. Charles can write anything.

The styling is a little different from what I usually expect with Charles, but it worked for me. And it’s always a sign of a fantastic book when I’m left wanting more chapters.

Recommended. Even for scaredy cats. Just maybe read it on a day with sunshine in the forecast.

This review also posted on GoodReads.

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