Geek Girls Rule! #516 – Review: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles

I discovered KJ Charles because of this article on Tor.com.  In it, the author Marina Berlin asks why Charles’s works are labeled Romance, not the SF/F they obviously are.

Because they have gay relationships in them, and there is still a sizable portion of cis, het, white, male SF/F fans who are homophobic.

Seriously, if Mark Hodder‘s work qualifies, so do these.  And trust me, I adore Mark Hodder’s work.  This is definitely not an insult to any of these authors. Both Charles’s and Jordan L. Hawk‘s work follow in a similar vein of fantastical alternate history.

And where do you find Hodder’s books shelved, hmmm?

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is modeled after the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The are narrated by Feximal’s partner and longtime lover Robert Caldwell. They meet when Caldwell hires Feximal to help with a haunting at the estate he’d just inherited.  And yes, in that first case there is sex involved, and fairly graphically described.

As I was reading The Secret Casebooks, I could not help but compare them to another of my favorite authors, the aforementioned Hawk, only to find in an afterword that Hawk and Charles have co-authored a story called Remnant, that I need to track down now.

In addition to sex, which never figured in the Sherlock Holmes stories, you also have a world of the supernatural, where Feximal is one of a community of actual ghost hunters, along with his adopted sister Miss Kay, and the repulsive Dr.Berry.

Also, Caldwell is less like a Watson, mostly there to act as a foil to Sherlock’s fussiness and the vehicle by which Sherlock explains everything to the reader, and more like Archie in the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout, who is the one who does the actual investigating and who brings the evidence to Wolfe so he can make that final leap of logic that eludes Archie for whatever reason.  Caldwell is very definitely more of an Archie than a Watson.

I ripped through The Secret Casebook in an afternoon. I don’t often just sit to read for pleasure.  The last series of books I did that with were Howk’s Whyborne and Griffin books, which also have fairly graphic sex scenes. It consists of several different short chapters loosely bound together over the arc of Feximal and Caldwell’s relationship, ending with a post-script about the two of them planning to disappear at the end of WWI.

The stories are well-written, excellently paced, and several times involve actual folklore I actually didn’t know about, and that is really cool.

I know some folks don’t like sex in books in general, regardless of who is having it, but if you aren’t one of those folks, or if you think you can deal with gay sexin’s in your SF/F, then I highly recommend them.

If you like what you read here, or want to my ebook habit, please consider donating using the link at the top right of the page:  Keep Us Geeking, or checking out my Patreon.  Thank you!

Also, if you’d like to see what sort of fiction I write when left to my own devices, please feel free to check out my fiction Patreon, Nothing Nice Comes Out of My Head.

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