26. Wild Card: Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1) by KJ Charles
List Progress: 2/30
Most people would not be competent if thrust into a spy novel. They might think they could be clever enough to evade the professionals, but there would almost certainly be many aspects they never even considered. Despite his military background, this is the position where Will Darling finds himself. It turns out his late uncle was involved in some unsavory business, and it is up to Will and his surprising new “friend” Kim Secretan to get to the bottom of it. KJ Charles has written a tight, engaging romp with the novel Slippery Creatures, one that feels perfect if you are in the mood for an exciting and erotic mystery novel.
Set after the Great War, Slippery Creatures follows Will after he has inherited his late uncle’s bookshop in London. The book focuses a lot on Will’s struggles as a veteran, transitioning back to civilian life after being in the trenches at Flanders and dealing with poverty along with many, many other returning soldiers. His experiences of ugly, impersonal warfare inform a lot of his decisions throughout the story: when plans for a proposed bioweapon are in play, Will is determined that neither the criminal anarchist group nor the official government War Office should get their hands on them. He thinks he has an ally in Kim, a dashing gentleman who wanders into his shop one day, but Kim may have some very twisted motives of his own.
The relationship between Will and Kim is the main selling point of the trilogy. Both are presented as queer in a very matter-of-fact way, without underplaying the challenges of being such in the 1920’s. It is refreshing to have a queer novel without a coming out or self-realization plotline: Will knows he is attracted to men and women, he has already made his peace with that, he’s got sex to have and spy business to deal with. The book does contain a lot of explicit sex scenes (which seems to be common for Charles’ work), but they are very well-written and hot, as well as relevant to the plot. If you are in the mood for sex scenes, these ones come very highly recommended.
Slippery Creatures is pulpy, being explicitly inspired by Golden Age pulp fiction, and this is a very solid example of the pulp craft. It moves quickly and draws you in with big emotions, and leaves you wanting more by the end. I will be happy to continue The Will Darling Adventures when I can, and considering that both Slippery Creatures and the sequel, The Sugared Game, came out in 2020, I do not imagine it will be a long wait for the third installment.
Would I Recommend It: Yes.