Sunday, August 28, 2011
Johannes Cabal the Detective
My oldest son and I both were looking forward to this book with much anticipation. We both loved Howard's first effort, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer. My son is a fan of Lovecraftian horror tales and the character of Johannes Cabal was first developed by Howard for stories printed in a magazine devoted to H.P. Lovecraft so his enjoyment makes sense. For me, I thought it was a unique tale with a surprise ending, well-written and entertaining.
When I brought home JC the Detective from the library my son snagged it up and started reading it. He was not immediately impressed and he soon dropped it to return to readings in preparation for the school year. I grabbed it back and also was unimpressed early on.
Howard takes a long time to set up the premise of the story and he really tries hard to make Cabal out to be a bad guy (which, as I told my son when we were discussing the story, I don't think he is. I think he's a good guy who does bad things). In this case, Cabal has snuck into a foreign country to steal a rare book on necromancy. He gets caught but manages to escape, boarding an aerocraft of some sort (this has a steampunk feel to it) on its way to another country by pretending to be an agricultural official.
A murder occurs on the flight and Cabal's curiosity gets the better of him. In his efforts to learn more about what happened, an attempt is made on his life. The aerocraft lands and Cabal tries to make his way back home when another murder takes place. Cabal finally figures things out and pieces the puzzle together.
Through most of the story a character from Howard's first book, Leonie Barrow, accompanies Cabal. There's not a lot of background given about the relations between the twain which, coupled with Howard's desire to paint Cabal a certain (incomplete) way, really made me feel like reading JC the Necromancer was a prerequisite for this book.
As a continuation of JC the Necromancer, this is really good. The writing style is the same. Entertaining, albeit with a lot of forced attempts at humor and redundant wisecracks. Once the story gets underway after the slow, murky beginning, it is hard to put down. But then it has a bizarre ending. The story ends in fine fashion. Cabal finds his way home safely. But then Howard says that, oh, by the way, Cabal did have another adventure on his way home and if you want you can read it. He then proceeds to give this short story, told from the standpoint of a fellow at a social club who ran into Cabal during this adventure and is relating the story to his compatriots at the club. Odd. But still good.
I'd recommend you read both Johannes Cabal books together. The second isn't quite as good as the first (which I also rated one star when I read it a couple of years ago) but if you're like my son and I, after you read the first, you'll want to read more about Cabal.