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Review: The Compact by Charlie Raven

Late last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed A Case of Domestic Pilfering by Rohase Piercy and Charlie Raven. That book had originally been written by Raven then reworked by Rohase.

Raven’s style is clear in her solo effort The Compact,  set in London and England of 1898 – a paranormal queer adventure where real people meet fictional ones and detection meets ghosts.

The action revolves around two extremely close friends, widows Harriet Day, who teaches piano, and artist Alexandra Roberts. The lifelong friends share an undercurrent of romantic attachment, but their lives are about to be turned inside out. First, Alex falls under the unhealthy influence of the wealthy Minerva Atwell, whom she has been commissioned to paint. Then one of Alex’s boarders dies in a horrible accident.

Their lives ares entangled with Roberts’ boarders, including the unpleasant Albert Burroughs, and the childlike and ethereal George Arden. George is fey and vague and sees ghosts. He’s also falsely accused of murder by Burroughs.

Real life figures Aleister Crowley, occultist and magician, and his lover, poet and female impersonator Jerome Pollitt, become involved with George’s situation, as does Dr John Watson, who is recovering from illness while Sherlock Holmes pursues a case in Russia.

It’s a large cast which Raven deftly handles with charm, elegance and excellent pacing. The story has plenty of humour as well as creeping dread, while the story slow-builds towards the discovery of grisly crimes, horrible secrets, Atwell’s disturbing schemes and George’s strange history.

Dr Watson’s efforts to be a detective in his friend’s absence are naturally not as brilliant as Holmes’s, though he does his best in partnership with the brilliant, unpredictable, substance-abusing Aleister Crowley. The comparisons he (and the reader) makes between Holmes and Crowley are inevitable and entertaining.

Watson is only a small player in the tale, however, which focuses on Harriet trying to discover Minerva Atwell’s power and clear George Arden’s name. She and Alex are both strong characters, as is Minerva and all her mystery. Crowley and Pollitt are lively, too, as are all the supporting cast.

The action reaches its climax of mystic threats, ancient Sumerian tablets, the unquiet dead and deadly intent at Minerva Atwell’s creepy spa in the country.

Raven’s prose is lively, her period detail light and evocative, and even the most minor of her cast of characters is distinct and fresh. She’s also made me keen to read more of and by Aleister Crowley!

The Compact is engaging good fun. After enjoying A Case of Domestic Pilfering so much too, I’m hoping I won’t have to wait too long for some more from Charlie Raven.

Buy The Compact

News: Support me on Patreon! (There are books in it for you)

Narrelle M Harris on Patreon

In December 2017 I began a Patreon account to help fund my fiction writing.

My first Patreon project is to re-release my first book, made up of two novellas – Fly By Night and Sacrifice – as a novella series under the banner, Duo Ex Machina.

The Duo Ex Machina series is about Frank Capriano and Milo Bertolone, loving couple and members of the two-man band, Duo Ex Machina, and their infrequent and unpleasant encounters with crime.

Fly By Night

My first Patreon target has been achieved – I’ve re-edited and re-released Fly By Night with a beautiful new cover by Willsin Rowe.

Sacrifice is being edited and posted as fortnightly chapters to my supporters, and will be released to them as a complete e-book in due course.

I’ll be writing three more e-books in the series: Number One Fan, Kiss & Cry, and Little Star, each set in years and decades following the first two novellas, set in 1999 and 2004 respectively.

Your Patreon pledges will allow me to make time to write these three new novellas, as well as paying Willsin Rowe for new cover art and formatting of the final stories for mobi and epub versions.

I’ll also be collecting a number of other short stories and writing new ones for free story collection, Scar Tissue and Other Stories, when I reach my initial income goal of $100 a month.

I aim to give my backers value for money, so there’ll be posts about Melbourne (where most of the stories will be set), my inspirations, sneak peaks of other works in progress, bits of other writing and writing tutorials (depending on which tier you support).

Stay tuned for the new cover images and new releases, or support me on Patreon for early access to the stories, other fiction, writing advice and more!

Become a Patron!

If you you’d rather buy Fly By Night outright, you can find it at: