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.
And so begins The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, as written by his public assistant, but private lover, Robert Caldwell. For twenty years, the two men have been companions with Simon the ghost hunter and Robert his assistant and chronicler of their adventures. In fact, the stories written by the former journalist have made the two famous. However, none of these public accounts covered the true horrors of what these men experienced, nor do they capture the actual loving relationship between the two men. The Secret Casebook covers the first four or so years of their experiences. It takes us from the case of Robert’s haunted home where they first met, through murderous butterflies, to stallions driving the actual hounds of hell, and ultimately to the case that brings Simon’s past to light, almost killing him in the process. Through it all, the men fall deeper in love and ever more connected as they fight to free the ghosts of the past in order to protect the living.
This book is just fascinating, from its unusual format, to the engaging stories of Robert and Simon’s adventures, and the growth of their romantic relationship. It is essentially told as a series of vignettes, each chapter focused on a different case the men undertake. Along the way we see the changes in their lives and the development of their feelings for one another. The book only takes us through the first four years of their time together, but it is written from years in the future as the nation is in the midst of world war. So we get the stories from the benefit of Robert’s experiences as he reflects back on their time together.
When I first realized the format, I was worried that the book would be choppy or disjointed with all the different stories. But Charles does a great job connecting each tale so that they all flow together into one integrated story. The timeline and the relationship growth carry throughout the book, and the stories often reference one another, so even though we are moving from case to case, the book still flows very nicely. I do think it can be a little bit meandering at times, as there is not a strong narrative that carries the book as a whole, beyond their growing relationship. So maybe a bit of a strong arc here would have helped. But still, the book flows nicely and never feels choppy at all. And you definitely need to read it from start to finish and in order, as the stories are chronological and the complete picture isn’t clear until the end.
Just to clarify, this book appears to be an extension of two earlier stories by Charles. The Caldwell Ghost, published in 2013, is the story that starts the book and recounts Robert and Simon’s (very sexy) initial meeting. A second story, Butterflies, picks up a while later when the men meet again. This is the second chapter of the book, after which it appears we move on to all new stories. The two original shorts are woven into the larger book and are the foundation for the larger story.
I really enjoyed this book. It is a bit dark and Simon is a pretty intense guy who takes his job, as well as most other things, very seriously. Robert often finds himself interceding between Simon and other people, softening the words of his lover or helping to navigate the social interaction. As grumbly and taciturn as Simon can sometimes be however, it is clear that Robert adores him and that the men would clearly sacrifice their own safety for one another. As I said, this story has a dark feel and some of the deaths are quite grisly. The book isn’t necessarily scary in a horror kind of way, but there are some pretty horrific things that go on. Our heroes more than once must take lives in order to protect the innocent and there are some pretty evil forces at play, both of the human and the spiritual variety. I found it all fascinating, in particular the way that Charles weaves in real tales and stories and expands upon them to create Robert and Simon’s adventures. The side characters and the different ways the various ghost hunters work are equally interesting. This book captured my attention from the first moments and I couldn’t put it down. I would definitely recommend giving this one a try.
Remnant by K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk
Remnant is a free story that crosses over Robert and Simon with two of my favorite characters of all time, Whyborne and Griffin from Jordan L. Hawk’s fabulous Whyborne and Griffin series. The story takes place chronologically after the events of Hawk’s Stormhaven and at just about the very end of The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. Robert and Simon have a case involving ancient Egyptian writing, and note on a ship passenger manifest that Whyborne and Griffin are arriving in London (en route to Egypt for their adventures in Necropolis). They know Whyborne by reputation, but given the stories they have heard, they wonder if Whyborne perhaps might be involved in the murders.
The story focuses primarily on a case of a murderous love spell, but for me the best part is the interaction between the two couples. As I said, at first Robert and Simon think that Whyborne and Griffin might be involved in their case. Their initial encounters as the men try to figure each other out, stalking and tracking one another, are quite fun. Add to that a bit of harmless flirting between Griffin and Robert that makes their lovers hot and possessive, and the story is sexy and quite entertaining. Simon is fierce and grumpy, Whyborne is his usual awkward but brave self, and they make a great counterpoint to their more polished partners. This story was released a while back, but I think it works best having read Simon Feximal first and having a basic familiarity with Whyborne and Griffin. For fans of that series, this is not to be missed. And considering it is free, I’d recommend it to anyone. Definitely a great story!