Johannes Cabal the Detective, by Jonathan L. Howard

7675981I’ve been looking forward Johannes Cabal the Detective since I finished the last book. Jonathan L. Howard’s books appeal to me on so many levels. They’re wacky. They’re ingenious. The characters are shifty and morally ambiguous. But I think what I love most about the books is the writing style. It’s erudite and grammatically sophisticated and sidesplittingly hilarious. Howard has the same way with words that my favorite British writers have. For example:

Write a political treatise–not to exceed 250,000 words or 500 sides, whichever is less–detailing your solution to stabilising relations in the region. Military force above brigade level is not permitted, not is divine intervention. You may include diagrams. (15*)

And this bit:

[Cabal had] asked for his [steak] to be cooked medium rare, which in Mirkarvian cuisine meant it had been shown a picture of an oven for moment and then served. A very brief moment, mind. (71)

In the last book, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, we were introduced to Johannes Cabal as he tried to win his soul back from the devil by finding 100 souls to replace it. In this book, we find Cabal in prison after trying to steal a rare book. Once his identity is discover, he gets pulled into the political intrigues of a dangerously nationalist cavalry man. After a daring escape, Cabal boards the dirigible where most of the action takes place. He is in danger of being exposed as a necromancer and arrested at any moment.

Almost immediately after the dirigible takes off, a series of mysterious events takes place: two murders and an attempt to throw Cabal out of the bottom of the dirigible. The facts just don’t add up, and Cabal can’t leave it alone in spite of his plans to jump ship (metaphorically instead of literally this time) as soon as he gets a chance. The fact that Leonie Barrow, who I suspect Cabal is more than a little in love with, is on board, draws him back. In spite of himself, Cabal does from pretty heroic things before the big finale.

While not quite as fun as the first book, I still very much enjoyed Johannes Cabal the Detective. It’s got all the things I love in my favorite books. Few people write like Howard does anymore. I’m eagerly looking forward to the next book. The fact that there was a bonus story included with my copy was a treat. It will go some way to tiding me over until the next Cabal book.

* All quotations from Johannes Cabal the Detective, Doubleday hardcover, 2010.

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