Johannes Cabal the Detective by Jonathan L Howard

Rating 8.5/10
Howard is obviously an author who enjoys playing with the formatting of telling a story.

After having read Jonathan L. Howard’s first ‘Johannes Cabal’ book, concisely titled ‘Necromancer’, I was hooked, and wanted more. Thankfully, I have come along at just the right time to be able to jump straight into the sequel, ‘Johannes Cabal the Detective’ which is as good a book, if not better, than its predecessor.

There are several reasons that I enjoy this book, and I want to take the time to hit on each of them while I have you here.

Format
Howard is obviously an author who enjoys playing with the formatting of telling a story. The Detective is no ordinarily paced or structured book, nor was Necromancer. There are diagrams that provide interesting additional information; there are entire sections left out of the narrative which are included later; and there is a little bit of a breaking of the fourth wall, at least on the narrators part which I truly admire for being so subtle and not really fourth wall breaking at all.
Also, Howard allows the idea of a “third person limited” perspective flex its abilities a little, allowing the narrator to add a few bits here and there without letting the entire story become “third person omnipotent” which, again, really hooks me in.

Alternate History
Another thing that really makes me salivate over this book is the world in which Howard has placed his characters. There is mention to England and the stuffy type of people that has been bred there for so long; the Germanies are referenced and you begin to sense a turning of reality; and then other countries that you’ve never heard of, but sound as if they belong in a comic book for being so real sounding, appear and you realise that Howard’s been playing with you.

Additionally, the steam-punk-ish technology which, in all honesty, is what steam punk evolves into, so it’s sort of electricity-punk, is really quite fascinating. It leaves you wondering just which small invention was missed in Howard’s universe that allowed for his characters to wander around in a world which is so similar to ours, but seems to be missing … something.

He’s Still Not a Good Guy
Johannes Cabal has had a book to grow, see the world, and even (re)acquire his conscience, but, no, there’s no change whatsoever to his actions, as far as I can tell. He still likes obscenely large guns, has no problem using them – or whatever other implement is lying handy – in offing anyone who gets in his way, and he does everything for his own self.
But that’s not really it either, which is brilliant.

I’m sure that there are stories out there which focus solely on selfish men and women going about their activities for the sole benefit of themselves, but this isn’t another of them. Cabal, even though he may be an ‘evil man’ is not committing these seemingly horrific acts for his own personal glory or empowerment; no, he does it because he’s trying to stave off death, for everyone.

He’s brilliant, utterly unaware of social morays (which just makes identify with him even more), and isn’t afraid to witherly sarcas anyone who comes near him (I made those words up). Maybe the book isn’t for everyone, but it was definitely for me.

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