Literature / Johannes Cabal the Detective

The second novel in Jonathan L. Howard's Johannes Cabal series.

Johannes Cabal the Detective has examples of:

  • A Spot Of Tea: Englishwoman Leonie is quite fond of it, as is Cabal, who while German born, grew-up in England. They are nonplussed by the Mirkarvia disdain for tea.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: Of a sort-we see some of the first Marechal v. Cabal fight, but we don't see how it ends we just know that Cabal wins and escapes (its revealed later in a terrifically short chapter).
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Arguably, Leonie and Cabal. The two of them reluctantly respect and admire each other and when they're not contemplating killing or trying to have the other person arrested, they do make a pretty good team. There's also the fact that the two of them are forced to act as though they are besotted with each other in order to conceal Cabal's true identity, so in the eyes of nearly everyone on the Princess Hortense they are the Official Couple.
    • Also throw in the fact that Leonie Barrow is the in-universe Expy of the woman Cabal apparently became a necromancer for, and you can see why Cabal's feelings for Leonie are... conflicted.
  • Berserk Button: Johannes Cabal HATES it when people try to kill him. And considering that he's shot people simply for annoying him, one has to fear the depths of his hatred.
    • Count Marechal (who fancies himself a "real" soldier) is all set to kill Cabal with a gun, until Cabal needles him with insults to trick him into a swordfight instead. The final nail in the coffin of the Count's rage? Being called an 'artillery officer.'
  • Came Back Wrong: Emperor Antrobus II.
  • Chaste Anti-Hero: Johannes Cabal is this with some shades of Celibate Anti-Hero. He can't even tell when the resident Femme Fatale is making a pass at him and just thinks that she has an unnatural fascination with the macabre. This amuses Leonie Barrow to no end.
    Leonie: Your look of gormless incomprehension as the tigress circled you will keep me amused for many years to come, I'm sure.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Cabal cheats in order to beat Count Marechal and escape.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Much to Cabal's irritation when he realizes that while he may be a criminal mastermind, he still would rather be on the side of humanity than with genuinely evil, opportunistic leeches like Moretti or Marechal which is what prompts him to go back to the aeroship.
    Sometimes he wished he still lacked a soul. It hurt so much.
  • The Conspiracy
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Mirkarvia, and all its neighboring countries. The Princess Hortense would count as well.
  • Cool Airship: With all of its bells and whistles, the zeppelin qualifies.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Cabal, who carries a gun, a switchblade knife, and a cane sword concealing a 3-foot steel blade.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Cabal again.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Lady Ninuka is the daughter of Count Marechal, and shares her parent's sociopathy.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Colonel Konstantin. He refuses to go along with the Count Marechal's new regime as it offends his sense of honor. Marechal does not respond well.
  • Enemy Mine: Why Leonie chooses to ally herself a sociopath like Cabal. In her words:
    Set a monster to catch a monster, Cabal.
  • Femme Fatale: Lady Ninuka
  • Frame-Up: Cabal frames Leonie as a Necromancer in order to distract Senzan authorities while he makes yet another escape. Unfortunately for him Leonie gets out rather quickly and when she finds him again, she is far from happy.
  • Genre Shift: Cabal does mystery with a dash of Diesel Punk. Then, in the epilogue, Cabal does Indiana Jones.
  • Hand Cannon: Cabal's gun.
    Cabal: A gun is a tool for killing. It isn't an enterprise that calls for subtlety, only certainty.
  • Hero Antagonist: Leonie
  • Hidden in Plain Sight: Cabal has a very difficult time figuring out how a murderer or group of murderers managed to kill two people and evade the attention of the airship's crew, until he realizes the captain and crew were behind the killings all along.
  • Hindenburg Incendiary Principle: The plot takes place aboard a luxury Zepplin which naturally ends up crashing (due to sabotage), with few survivors.
  • Honor Before Reason: Cabal calls Leonie this when she decides to return to the Princess Hortense to finish the investigation because it's the right thing to do, despite Cabal telling her that it will most likely end in her getting killed as well.
  • Humans Are Bastards:
    Humanity is a despicable mass, Herr Zoruk, and ill-suited to the compassion of romantics.
  • Locked Room Mystery
  • MacGyvering: A simple trip to the local drug store and Cabal can create hair dye, reagents to revive the dead, and time bombs.
  • Noodle Incident: "Cabal could not have been more horrified if she'd pulled off her face to reveal a gaping chasm of eternal night from which glistening tentacles coiled and groped. That had already happened to him once in his life and he wasn't keen to repeat the experience."
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Implied with Cacon, who is revealed to actually be a Senzan agent, and attracts Cabal's attention prior to The Reveal with an out-of-character display of intelligence. Also, the seemingly harmless Harlmann turns out to actually be a con artist/professional criminal.
  • Oblivious to Love: Well, not love so much as lust. Cabal's razor sharp intellect fails him with regards to the wiles of the opposite sex so when Lady Ninuka tries to put the moves on him he is completely lost. Leonie has to spell it out for him before he realizes it.
  • Occam's Razor: Both subverted and played straight.
  • One Bullet Left: The final confrontation between Cabal and Marechal.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted with Cacon's death.
  • Phenotype Stereotype: Cabal invents a temporary hair dye for himself after noting that his blonde-ness makes it hard to go unnoticed when trying to escape a foreign country.
  • Photographic Memory: Allows the slightly obsessive-compulsive Cabal to realize that one piece of carpet is out of place.
  • Properly Paranoid: Cabal, much to his chagrin.
  • Ruritania: Mirkavia and it's neighbors. In fact Ruritania is actually mentioned in a throwaway line.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Zoruk.
  • Spy Versus Spy: Pretty much everyone aboard the Princess Hortense except for Zoruk, De Garre, Leonie and Miss Ambersleigh has an secret identity, mission, or at least an ulterior motive. The first two end up dead as a result of the multiple conspiracies taking place.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Leonie Barrow and Cabal are pretty much forced to do this in order to unravel the conspiracy on the aeroship even while trying to outmaneuver each other.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: This is presented as being a big part of Mirkarvia patriotism and mores, and is expressed variously in extreme jingoism and a love of unpleasant cuisines they consider "masculine".
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Cabal leaves Mirkarvia in a state of civil war. Both figuratively, and literally.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Leonie Barrow goes from the sweet Girl Next Door in the The Necromancer to a Badass Bookworm studying criminal psychology, is a capable investigator and who can match wits with Johannes Cabal himself.
  • Upbringing Makes the Hero: The reason why Leonie pursues justice and law in contrast to Cabal's self-interested chaotic nature:
    Leonie: To answer your question, because it's the right thing to do.
    Cabal: What your father would do, you mean.
    Leonie: It's the same thing. It usually is.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Several times, Cabal considers assaulting, even killing Leonie Barrow for the sake of maintaining his cover or out of self-preservation. But he refrains, not from compassion or conscience but because it would be too troublesome.
  • Zeppelins from Another World