Introducing The "Caradoc & Henshall Mystery" with "The Stag God"

§ I received an ARC of this book to review but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this novel. §

"The Stag God" is the first mystery for Brodie Henshall and Mathias Caradoc: Brodie takes a holiday on the Isle of Skye but it turns out to be anything but relaxing as an Earthquake hits and causes a death. He soon teams up with local police officer Mathias but things become even more twisted as supernatural phenomenon start to occur ...

Since this is the first part of the series, I must admit that I expected more of an introduction at the beginning. Instead you are thrown right into the story and expected to remember who exactly Brodie is and that the other one is Mathias. However, the information about the characters and their background are spread across the story, thus, this gets easier with time and by the end you have a pretty good idea about who these people and their characteristics are. 

However, I also have to admit that the whole story does not exactly feel as fleshed out as it could have been. The whole book ends with the prospect of a much bigger story and their own division, which I feel like is the point where Phael should have started. Due to this "The Stag God" seems like a 0,5 novel in a series of X-Files/Rivers of London type of stories. It intended to give you all the this and that about who is who and how they became a team but, essentially the plot stagnates.

I am afraid that this is the downfall of "The Stag God" - the mystery is rather weak and when it is solved it does not even leave you with satisfaction but only with an "ah" moment. This might be because the strange occurrences are so varied and in the end it is solved by a simple sentence, which causes a feeling of being underwhelmed. 

Don't let this discourage you because every story has to start somewhere and "The Stag God" has strong sides! First are the characters: I enjoyed the characters, as well as their backgrounds. Both are queer, and this fact is introduced in different ways - while Brodie is rather blunt and has some gallow humour " He'd always worried being gay might hurt his career, but not something like this" about it, Mathias is tentative and only revealed when necessary. The topic only comes up when it furthers the story. This makes "The Stag God" not into a queer story but one that has diverse characters. 

I also enjoyed that Phael took his time in establishing the relationship of the main characters. They started from not knowing each other to slowly learning more. At the end, they can admit to themselves that they like each other but are not quite sure, or can't admit it to themselves (yet?), if they "like like" each other as well. This is something I look forward to seeing explored in further books: is it going to take on a romantic edge as well, or are they going to become a queer-platonic power couple?

In the end, "The Stag God" introduces the team and the new mysteries of the world. It is meant as a set up for a new series, sadly the book is let out down by a weaker main plot. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to reading more about Brodie and Mathias - hoping for a mystery that is going to blow me away.

 The Stag God by J. O. Phael  
 published    2020
by  Imporobable Press
 seriesA Caradoc & Henshall Mystery#1
 GoodreadsAdd to shelf 


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