Tuesday, 26 April 2011

'Johannes Cabal the Detective' - Jonathan Howard

I really enjoyed reading Jonathan Howard's first book about Johannes Cabal ('Johannes Cabal the Necromancer') and I have looked forward with great anticipation to the second novel. Without further ado I introduce you to book number two: 'Johannes Cabal the Detective'.

In the first book Johannes Cabal took on the devil himself, but in the second book he has to tangle with something even more nefarious. Politics.

A necromancer faces many challenges and this is reflected well in Johannes Cabal's skill set. He could easily do the work of a physician, a chemist or even a burglar. Its's a very dangerous work, not everything you summon from the other side will be friendly. This means that to survive as a necromancer the art of self defense is important. Johannes Cabal relies a lot on a large caliber hand gun that he keeps close at hand, a rapier disguised as a cane and switch blade for anything coming too close. His ability for sarcasm and devastating one-liners is even sharper than his blades.

As a person Johannes comes across as a megalomaniac who cares nothing for his fellow man. Only his self discipline and good understanding of how a person is supposed to behave stops him from drawing unwanted attention to himself. He has a large repertoire of facial expressions to use when the situation calls for it, even though the actual feeling associated with it is beyond his understanding.

Johannes Cabal has travelled to Mirkarvia to steal a rare book on necromancy. An overzealous guard dog results in his imprisonment. Mirkarvia is small European country with ambitious plans to avenge itself on it's neighbours. An important part of these plans is the emperor's speech, but the emperor has just died. Luckily for the scheming nobles there is a necromancer in the dungeons. Johannes Cabal is promised his freedom in return for ensuring that the emperor can hold his speech. He suspects that the nobles have no intention to keep up their side of the bargain so he carefully plans his escape. The escape brings him onboard an airship flying to Mirkarvia only ally Katamenia. The two allies are separated by the country Senza where it will be necessary to stop due to politics.
To my delight this part of the book almost turns into 'Murder on the Orient Express' as one of the passengers is murdered under to very mysterious circumstances and Johannes Cabal is the only one that can connect the clues. Hercule Poirot and Johannes Cabal have a lot in common with their high intelligence, but only one of them has the capacity for great violence. The handful of passengers onboard are all delightfully quirky which brings the story alive and makes for some fun and interesting reading. Johannes Cabal also meets an old enemy of his and they are forced into an uneasy truce to stop the murderer from striking again.

Jonathan Howard possesses a razor sharp wit and Johannes Cabal's dead pan execution works brilliantly. The author is very good at brief descriptions of what a character looks like but also of their personality. When a character is first encountered by Johannes Cabal they are described from his point of view, but Johannes Cabal not being very fond of people in general, they are rarely described in a very flattering manner. For someone who is a border line sociopath Johannes Cabal is very likeable and I cannot wait to meet him again.

Johannes Cabal the Detective weighs in at 416 pages and is published by Headline.

Verdict: Must Read

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