Series: Casebook of Johnson and Boswell #1
Published by Burning Chair Ltd on July 8, 2021
Genres: Horror, Historical Fantasy
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Edinburgh, 1773. A storm is coming. A storm that will shake the Age of Reason to its very foundations.
When rumours spread of ghouls haunting Edinburgh's old town, there is only one person who can help. Dr Samuel Johnson: author, lexicographer... and a genius in the occult and supernatural.
With his good friend and companion, James Boswell, Dr Johnson embarks on a quest to unravel the hellish mysteries plaguing the city. But what they uncover is darker and more deadly than they could have ever suspected, an evil conspiracy which threatens not just the people of Edinburgh, but the whole of mankind.
For the tunnels under Edinburgh's Old Town hide a terrible secret...
Before Holmes & Watson, before Abraham van Helsing, there was Doctor Johnson & James Boswell: scourge of the hidden, supernatural world of the 18th century.
I adore Edinburgh as a setting. I’ve never been there, but maybe one day. And it does seem a perfect place for the supernatural to bump heads with the rational.
It’s the 1770s and Dr. Samuel Johnson has come to Edinburgh to visit his friend, James Boswell, for a tour of the city and holiday in the Highlands. Hearing reports of ghouls haunting the Old Town, and about a series of burglaries in the houses of noblemen, Dr. Johnson can’t resist getting involved. Of course, Dr. Johnson is knowledgeable and experienced in occult and supernatural phenomena.
We get a story of secret societies, conspiracies, and hideously deformed people living in the tunnels below the city. The story moves along at a good pace. The characters are well-drawn. Both Johnson and Boswell are likable in their own ways, but not without faults. Secondary characters are brought to life well, even if they have smaller parts. Edinburgh is described well: the sights, sounds, people. And MacLeod does a good job weaving historical figures, in addition to Johnson and Boswell, into his narrative, making changes when necessary.
The plot. We’ve got a lot. Deformed humans, secret societies, interdimensional demons, kidnappings, human sacrifice. There was so much and so many connections/coincidences that it began to feel overdone, almost silly. I wanted it to be scary and suspenseful and it was up to a point, but then he added the corrupt nun, and it was like, “really?” There are only two hundred sixty-some pages. I didn’t get the chance to feel the tension or the horror after a while because just so much of it is crammed in.
All that being said, it did have promise. The writing flowed well, the descriptions captured the time and place, the characters felt real. It’s a first novel. I’ll probably give the second in the series a chance when it comes out. With a little more focus, this could have been mysterious and terrifying. As it was, it felt like a mediocre movie.