Strange Beasts

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Pub Date Oct 15 2024 | Archive Date Not set

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In this fresh-yet-familiar gothic tale—part historical fantasy, part puzzle-box mystery—the worlds of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes collide in a thrilling exploration of feminine power.

At the dawn of the twentieth century in Paris, Samantha Harker, daughter of Dracula’s killer, works as a researcher for the Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomena. But no one realizes how abnormal she is. Sam is a channel into the minds of monsters: a power that could help her solve the gruesome deaths plaguing turn-of-the-century Paris—or have her thrown into an asylum.

Sam finds herself assigned to a case with Dr. Helena Moriarty, daughter of the criminal mastermind and famed nemesis of Sherlock Holmes and a notorious detective whom no one wants to work with on account of her previous partners’ mysterious murders. Ranging from the elite clubs of Paris to the dark underbelly of the catacombs, their investigation sweeps them into a race to stop a Beast from its killing rampage, as Hel and Sam are pitted against men, monsters, and even each other. But beneath their tenuous trust, an unmistakable attraction brews. Is trusting Hel the key to solving the murder, or is Sam yet another pawn in Hel’s game?

In this fresh-yet-familiar gothic tale—part historical fantasy, part puzzle-box mystery—the worlds of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes collide in a thrilling exploration of feminine power.

At the dawn of...

Advance Praise

"A riveting gaslamp fantasy that's equal parts bloody mystery and flat-out supernatural romp. Morris deftly weaves existing lore–from both the classic literature her characters are born of, and a taxonomist's handbook’s worth of supernatural creatures–into a vivid feminist tale whose pages fly. A delightful debut, bursting with affection for its magical world." –Melissa Albert, New York Times bestselling author of The Hazel Wood

"What a luscious and fantastical treat! With virtuoso world-building, Morris effortlessly transported me to an enchanting realm teeming with monsters, mysticism, and the paranormal. Prepare to be utterly absorbed. Strange Beasts is a magical debut!" –Emily Habeck, USA Today bestselling author of Shark Heart: A Love Story

“A whip-smart, lusciously atmospheric adventure through the dazzling theatres and chilling catacombs of turn of the century Paris.” –Frances White, Sunday Times bestselling author of Voyage of the Damned

“Strange Beasts is a propulsive collision of historical fiction and fantasy, all tied together with an opulent, gothic bow. A terrifying delight.” –Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen series

“Engaging and delightful, Strange Beasts draws the reader into a gothic setting that seems all too real. I was at once intrigued and a little spooked by all the familiar names, especially when I began to realize just how effectively Susan Morris has used our own nightmarish archetypes to trap us in her tale.” –Troy Denning, New York Times bestselling author of more than forty novels of science fiction and fantasy

“Morris cleverly weaves together historical, literary, and mythological threads to create the endlessly rich world for her supernatural sleuths in this gripping mystery. With gorgeous prose and an unforgettable pair of heroines, Strange Beasts romps through the opulence and intrigue of turn-of-the-century Paris, offering an exploration of femininity, power, and the nature of monsters—as well as a thrilling adventure full of wit and heart. I can’t wait for the sequel.”—Kate Alice Marshall, USA Today bestselling author of What Lies in the Woods and Rules for Vanishing

“In Strange Beasts, Susan J. Morris gives readers a subtle alchemy of beauty, poetry, suspense, and horror, nestled perfectly in Paris during the Belle Époque, a world that is recognizable but also uniquely her own. Hel and Sam are a stunning pair, fighting monsters in the darkest catacombs, while at the same time fighting against a world that would make monsters of them. A delightfully wicked read.” –Jaleigh Johnson, New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Dragonfly

“A magnificent book. Of gaslamps and murders, of Paris, of secrets and love, and of finding yourself and trust. I treasure this tale, I hope it’s the first of many, and until those many start appearing, I’ll reread this one. Often.” –Ed Greenwood, creator of The Forgotten Realms

"A riveting gaslamp fantasy that's equal parts bloody mystery and flat-out supernatural romp. Morris deftly weaves existing lore–from both the classic literature her characters are born of, and a...

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Bindery partners with influential book tastemakers to identify and publish resonant stories. This book will receive continuous prepublication and post launch promotion by book tastemaker Kathryn Budig, whose highly engaged audience exceeds 440k followers and is the largest community on Bindery to date.

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Available Editions

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ISBN 9781959411642
PRICE $18.95 (USD)

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Average rating from 76 members

Featured Reviews

Field Agent, Hel Moriarty (Helena), and Sam Harker (Samantha) Research Librarian. for the Royal Society of Abnormal Phenomena are sent to Paris to solve a series of murders that seem to be the work of a werewolf.

Paranormal mystery, very light same sex elements, strong feminist theme.

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I always enjoy a good monster story! I love all the different monsters and lore behind them, intertwined with the overarching mystery. I felt both the Sherlock Holmes and Dracula influences, and it does a good job of paying homage to them. The characters were compelling with lots of twists and turns. The dynamic between Sam and Hel was definitely a highlight and I enjoyed how their relationship slowly progressed. The author did a great job of making this monster-ridden, bloody Paris feel very real. All in all, a highly enjoyable read.

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This was a gripping read, I thought the characters were intriguing and I'm going to keep an eye out for more from this author.

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Okay I loved it. I'm such a sucker for anything Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. This was so well written and just adored the characters

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I rated this book 5 stars because I loved every single second of it. Such a unique story and fabulous characters. Everyone please read this asap.

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My kindle formatting was unfortunately broken. I wasn't able to read so leaving five stars. I saw a note about "EPUB available late May" so I will try downloading again later in the month.

Good luck to Inky Phoenix Press on your first launch!! Rooting for you :)

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Samantha 'Sam' Harker wants to get out of research and into the field, but to do so she must work with the dangerous Dr Helena Moriarty, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes' nemesis.

As they investigate a monster killing men in Paris ,both are keeping secrets....

Really interesting world building going on. We have the Holmes stuff, Dracula, and the monster hunters Sam and Hel work for. It's also written well in a modern style, thankfully. It is primarily a supernatural mystery novel, and if you were expecting a romance you'd be disappointed.

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I read this and sat a few days on it to gather my thoughts. I’ve decided that as a stand-alone book, it’s okay. However, as the beginning of a series, it’s great. I was left wanting to know more about the characters and their relationship. The mystery itself was relatively easy to follow, I just wish I saw more growth with the characters and with each other

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a fabulous historical fiction with gothic vibes and strong female leads! what's not to love! loved the paris setting and atmosphere.

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Its dark and moody, which we all love! I didn't think I would like this in all honesty. Im not into anything remotely real world or taking place in an actual "world" I dont like renditions and I dont like vampires. Usually. lol I loved this! I was thinking about this book when I was not reading, and Ive been stalking the author for more! Thank you for allowing me a chance to read this beauty before the mass of the world.

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I read this and and thought I must have hallucinated because it was exactly like a sapphic fanfictionish fantasy that I wished existed but obviously never would. The femme daughter of Mina Harker and the butch daughter of Professor Moriarty team up to solve a string of supernatural murders? They start to fall in love? It looks like the start of a Holmes-Watson style fantasy series?

And, most importantly...IT'S FUN!! A great old-fashioned murder mystery but with magical beasts and will-o'-wisps and feminine rage. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I loved Sam, wanted more of Hel's thoughts and feelings, and am ravenous for the sequel and more of the Moriarty crime family. The only reason I would dock a star is because I think this debut set up the sequel a little too much (like the scene with Hel's brother didn't go anywhere, just introduced him as an important character in the future), but whatever, it worked on me, I want a sequel now. I give the star back for enjoying myself so much.

Also just the image of the son of Van Helsing walking around in jingling cowboy boots and thinking he's the hottest thing in Europe was 10/10

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Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

This was an interesting little supernatural mystery. An urban fantasy whodunit set in 1900s Paris featuring descendents of the characters from Dracula and the tales of Sherlock Holmes.

The mystery hit a good balance between not being extremely obvious very early on and still giving the reader enough clues to piece it together before the protagonists might as the story goes on, if they were paying attention.

The mystery was inventive and the story made interesting use of folklore. 1900s Paris was both a atmospheric backdrop as well as a deeply important aspect of the story the book tells.

My only real issue is that the story felt a little too exposition heavy in the first part, with every interaction initially having several breaks to deliver exposition. This does get better as the plot gets moving and the book settles into a smooth pace.

Samantha and Helena were pretty enjoyable characters to follow and their burgeoning relationship is cute, though perhaps a little too subtle beyond the exposition. It'll be interesting to see where it goes.

Overall, Strange Beasts is an entertaining work of urban fantasy that borrows from some classics to deliver a intricate and well written mystery. If you enjoy Holmesian mysteries with a supernatural twist, I'd highly recommend picking this up.

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This one really shocked me how much I liked it, loved loved loved the Dracula & Sherlock influence!!

Great monster story and look forward to more from this author in the future.

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Strange Beasts is a fitting title for Susan J. Morris’s debut novel. It is indeed strange because I hadn't encountered anything like it before, and it is a beast of a story that gripped me from the first page by the throat and didn't let go until the end.

I won’t delve too much into the plot because this book is an experience everyone should have without any prior knowledge. But I must mention the atmosphere and the characters. The vibes of gothic Paris were masterfully done, so much so that the setting almost manifested itself on the pages as I was reading. This is perfectly complemented by Sam and Hel, an incredible duo who were fierce enough to be awe-inspiring, yet vulnerable enough to be relatable.

Susan J. Morris’s debut is a witty, intelligently written story that will both dazzle the reader and give them chills. It’s one of those stories that will reinvigorate your love for fiction by reminding you that there are still talented authors out there who can offer something new and unique.

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So this book very much struct me as a fantastic beasts and Sherlock Holmes smashed together.

There's plenty blood and gore!

I wouldn't say this has a title of a vampire book as there's very little actual vampire action which I was sad about as it seemed promised.

In a sentence this book is a who dunnit with beasts and a slow burn love story!


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I wouldn't say that historical fiction is an apt genre for this book, but it was still a fantastic read! Initially, I thought the mixing of literary characters and figures from different time periods would be too much of a melting pot, but it ended up being just the right amount of crossing over, along with new material. The characters are relatable and the plot has great twists and turns that kept me guessing. It is, at the end of the day, a kind of "whodunnit" piece, but definitely stands out thanks to the unique premise and masterful writing. I'm really hoping there is a sequel!

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I loved loved loved this one. A mystery in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes with Dracula energy? Yes, please. The character development and slow burn romance were perfect. I want more Sam and Hel! Will be recommending to my friends., for sure.

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I absolutely loved this! Who doesn't love a 1900s romantic whodunit with mystical creatures and Sherlock Holmes vibes? This book had everything. It was well written, and the storyline was beautiful as well as disturbing (up my alley, for sure).

Sam and Hels, two affiliates of the Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomenon in London, are dispatched to Paris to solve a string of brutal murders. All of the victims are wealthy men yet no valuables have been taken. It is apparent that the culprit is not human, but what is it? Sam and Hels are both no stranger to mysterious phenomenon. Sam is hiding secrets of her own. Hels has a bad reputation - all of her previous partners have died in the field. Who or what is killing these men and why?

Sam and Hels were the perfect sleuthing duo. I enjoyed the slow burn romance throughout the book but the mystery of solving brutal murders was my favorite part.

Thank you to netgalley and Bindery books for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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League of extraordinary gentlemen meets Sherlock and homes.
I enjoyed it - would have preferred a touch more spice. Could perhaps be cut down a smidge.

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A nice paranormal mystery driven by the daughter of Mina Harker and the daughter of Moriarty !
Sam, a quiet girl, is used to work at the library and is not a field agent, and Hel is a badass heroin with a nefarious reputation. Both have secrets and are searching for more than the Beast who kills people in Paris. And yes, they will go to France to investigate and find the monster.
As a French girl, I really enjoyed the historical accuracy of the story and the french dialogues, always perfect - which is so rare ! (I must admit, I even learnt few things).
The slow burn romance was sweet and I'm really impatient to meet again Hel and Sam in book 2 !

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC.
Already desperate for a sequel. This book is very action-packed and you are thrown straight into it. I loved the characters and their relationships, loved how the author merged the fictional universes of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes and still added so much, loved the Belle Epoque Paris setting... I loved pretty much every single thing about this book. The fact that this is a debut is insane to me. It was so well crafted, extremely engaging, the pacing was perfect and the author nailed the slow-burn romance. The only reason why I'm not rating it 5 stars is because I found the ending predictable and knew the character was guilty (and the method they used) as soon as they were introduced.
4.75 stars

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I’ve never been one for mysteries as I tend to find them too predictable and makes the overall experience… boring. Here, I completely forgot that there was something I should even be looking for! The atmosphere, the characters, the book as a whole creates it’s own pace and secrets where I found myself not wanting to solve the mistery myself but rather watch Sam and Dr. Moriarty do it.

The underlying topics like class struggle and misoginy made it all feel more real and round even tho we are talking about monsters.

I can’t wait to have it on my shelves (and make my friends buy it) when it comes out!

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Dracula meets Sherlock Holmes meets fierce, independent women, meets a gothic Parisian atmosphere in the early 1900s, meets Fantastic Beasts, meets murder mystery... AND it's sapphic? Yes. Sign me up. Take my money. Put my name on the roster.

I thoroughly enjoyed Strange Beasts!

The world building, though minimal, was easy to understand. This is a world where monsters and/or paranormal beings exist and are known.

I loved watching Sam and Hel's relationship blossom. To me it felt authentic, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it develop further in a sequel.

I very much want to give this five stars, however I have a small gripe: throughout the book, there is French dialogue without translation and as I don't speak French, this was mildly irritating! My choices were either Google translate it as I went or just push through and assume it wasn't super important. I went with the latter most of the time, and while I don't feel I missed a whole lot, I would have liked to know what they were saying.

This was well written, well researched, and well plotted. Highly recommend. 4.5 stars.

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Thank you to The Bindery team and to NetGalley for this ARC! This review contains spoilers.

FINALLY a good horror/mystery/crime book! With a good narrator! Interesting characters! And where it wasn't clear who was the villain from the start!
I really liked this book and read it in three days. The setting of Paris, the catacombs, everything weaved together was so satisfying to read. Needless to say, I need book two. I am begging. I want to know what Hel and Sam will get up to in Ireland. Will they meet Hel's family? Will they kiss again? I have to say, I didn't give the book 5 stars because to me the romance between Hel and Sam felt like it wasn't fleshed out the way it should have been. What I mean with that is that from the comments Hel makes (e.g. when she says something along the lines of Cyprien won't be able to resist her in that dress, she looks good etc.) one can clearly see that she likes her. Sam on the other hand never really mentions being attracted to her. That felt a bit off to me. I would have liked for Sam to give little indications (before the kiss) that she was indeed also interested in Hel, romantically. But ah, nevertheless, I enjoyed this story so much!

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HONESTLY, THIS DELIVERED EVERYTHING WE WERE PROMISED FROM THE SYNOPSIS AND I ATE THE FUCK OUTTA IT. like good lorddd, a must read for enjoyers of horror/thrillers and lesbians 10/10.

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<i>Strange Beasts</i> is everything you could want from a murder mystery. It leaves you guessing again and again, leading you to think you've figured the puzzle out, only to divert your expectations entirely. Aside from that, it immerses you in a perfectly gothic, almost whimsical world of mythical creatures and catacombs and potions. This is the type of book you forget you're even reading, because it's just that good.

Don't even get me started on the slow burn sapphic romance. That one kiss was not enough for me. Give me a second book please!!!!

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A truly beautiful story that takes place in a equally as beautiful world. This is a great gothic mystery that takes place a world in which all of your favorite monster stories and classic English literature characters are real. Think the Van Helsing movie, but much less campy and a little more serious. It was so atmospheric and all of the decisions--from the lore of the werewolves and various other creatures, to setting the story in early 20th-century France, to Sam's fantastical abilities--created a very beautiful and uncanny world.

I also really liked how Sam and Hel came from "famous" families and how those backgrounds created compelling personal journeys and mysteries for the two MCs. Without spoiling too much, it was really interesting to see how Morris approached the very different family lives of the two. Sam came from a family with a dark history, and while they were very loving and obviously cared deeply for Sam, they also coddled her too much, not allowing her to fully learn to control and explore her abilities, which ended up hurting her in the end. On the other hand, Hel came from a loveless family that used each other as pawns and only saw the value in each other if they were strong and intelligent. While this obviously emotionally stunted Hel, it did turn her into a very strong and independent woman. I also like how each family has their own mystery that's threaded throughout the book, but never overtakes the main plot, just enhances it. There definitely needs to be a sequel just to see how these storylines end.

My only complaint is that I just didn't really feel the romance. I do think Sam and Hel would be a great couple and compliment each other well, but throughout most of the book, it was completely platonic with almost no mention of interest on either side. There wasn't any romantic tension between the two since they were so focused on solving the case, which is obviously fine, but if I hadn't read the synopsis before reading the book, I don't think I would have even known that Sam was into women. It's a shame because the little romantic development that we did get towards the end was very well done and set the stage for a very sweet relationship.

While this was obviously a very serious story with some darker scenes, the book was also just fun. I really like when author's don't take their stories too seriously and just allow their characters to be human. This was a great read and I cannot wait to read more from Morris (especially if this ends up being a series to tie up all those loose ends).

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A story where the world of Dracula meets the world of Sherlock Holmes, set in Paris at the dawn of the twentieth century and make it a supernatural murder mystery? Well, yes, you got me!

Following Sam Harker and Dr. Helen Moriarty on this adventure was a wild ride through 'monster' infested Paris, hunting down in the famous catacombs all while trying to solve the puzzle of several impossible seeming murders.

I adored the way Sam and Hel had to work to find a basis and trust in their partnership and how each of them has their own gifts and how they make the perfectly imperfect team. The slow burn between them is wonderfully balanced and when they finally open up more to each other it is beautiful.
I also loved how scents played a big part in the murder mystery and how Morris described them.

What I would have liked more of was actually Sam's childhood friend and later rival Jakob Van Helsing. He was an intriguing antagonist in the scenes he was in and how dare he get such a fun design to just be almost criminally underused in the overall story?

In the end though Strange Beasts is a great book, the writing is amazing and the characters shine. Even the side characters were written well and with some of them you might wish to see more of.

Thank you to Susan J. Morris, Broken Bindery and NetGalley for this eARC!
#StrangeBeasts #NetGalley

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thank you to netgalley for the eARC.

historical fiction is often a toss up for me. some times i really enjoy it and other times i just can’t get into it, but i really liked this one.

i normally warm up to the mysterious characters more quickly compared to their optimistic partners, but i was drawn to sam from the first page. i think her being a channel made her really interesting that had me questioning how she’d play her role while keeping it hidden from a very intelligent character whose job is a famous detective. it was really nice to see hel be met with her match even if she didn’t realize it at first.

the tone felt very sherlock holmes. not sure about dracula as i’ve never read the book, but the mystery of it all was very present throughout the whole book.

i love slow burn romances, they might be my favorite, but i think the romance was lacking. when there was a moment between them, i forgot there was meant to be a romance between them. i don’t think it harmed the story overall as it was very strong on its own, but i think the build up between sam and hel could’ve been better.

one thing i really loved was that hel’s flaws weren’t all resolved by the end. she made gradual growth and by the end, she acknowledged that she wasn’t what sam could want and needed more time to better herself. i really enjoyed that aspect since i don’t see it often.

the ending let it open for a second book, and i believe there will be one, but i actually like the ending enough for it to be the end of them. though i did really enjoy sam and hel, i’m not sure if i would want more of them. maybe i need some time to really sit with the book, but i’m unsure if i’d come back for the next.

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Love love love love. 

The main characters were lovely, the vibe came across perfectly and the mystery kept me on my toes until the very end.

Even though there wasn't that much romance it felt real and I hope there will be a sequel to further explore the romance and Hel's story.

The story felt very real and all the problems adressed in it were handled well in my opinion. I'd really recommend this book to readers of dark fantasy or mystery books.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an advance copy of this novel in exchange for my honest opinion.

First and foremost, the fact that this is a debut novel is astounding to me. Susan J. Morris, you are very talented indeed! Fans of slow burn romance are absolutely going to eat this up, as well as anyone that enjoys a good "whodunit" mystery! I seriously loved Sam and Hels so much, I'm seriously hoping we will see much more of them in the future. Again, kudos to the author on such interesting and fun debut novel!

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I was in a reading slump and DNF'd about 4 books and when I started this one I knew I finally found one that I would finish!

I LOVE old school European stories especially when monsters are involved.

Here we have a fun twist of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes.
We follow Sam Harker who is the daughter of the woman who killed Dracula, but it may have come at a cost. We also have Hel who is the daughter of Moriarty, the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes.
They must come together to find out what monster is behind the gruesome murders popping up in Paris and neighboring towns.

I love the world building and the MCs.
I do wish the relationships in the book were a little more developed and the ending left me feeling like there should have been more.

But overall I really enjoyed this read.

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This book was so much better than I could have even expected from the already interesting description. The cover is absolutely stunning and the writing is just as great. I want to read more from this author in the future and definitely need to grab a physical copy! Such a lovely read. Absolutely loves the characters and story line.

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3.5 stars - Samantha Harker, daughter of Johnathan and Mina Harker, is a researcher for the Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomena. Usually she's buried in the library working to assist the Society's many field agents, but this time she's managed to talk her way on to a case. Teaming up with Dr. Helena Moriarty, the daughter of the infamous professor, Sam sets off for Paris to investigate a recent string of gruesome murders. Though Sam quickly finds she might be a bit out of her league in the world of field work, she's not as useless as some might think, for much like her mother before her, Sam is a channel and can see into the minds of the monsters they're hunting.

Set in and underneath the streets of Paris at the turn of the century, Strange Beasts was a wonderfully entertaining tale of mystery, murder, and monsters. Initially filled with suspicion and secrets, it was fun to watch Sam and Hel's relationship change as the story progressed, as well as learn why each woman chose to pursue this case. Although currently a standalone, it's clear this is a world made for more adventures, and I would not be surprised, or sad, to see a sequel in the future.

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I love a good who-dun-it murder mystery and this one hit the spot! Add in a little bit of sapphic romance to sweeten it up between our two investigator FMCs to make things more entertaining. I love Sam and Her together- thing were a bit terse at first and towards the end, but they clicked together and work SO well. As much as I enjoyed the slow burn romance between the two of them, the brutal murders and discovering with them who did it was enthralling to read. I wish there was more on Hel's family, as there was, and still is, so much potential on following the trail to them. Although it did take a couple chapters to get a feel for the world and the monsters in it, but it was a quick and enthralling read. I hope Morris decides to come back to this world because there's so much potential for more!

Thank you to Netgalley, the author, and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

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I loved this book from the start. With nods to Dracula and Sherlock Holmes, I was hooked from the start. Add in two female sleuths - both with their their own storied histories -- and this is a great read.

With mixes of gothic horror, historical fantasy, and mystery, this is a super fun read!

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Thank you to Netgalley and Bindery Books for the arc. The cover really caught my eye and the premise intrigued me as it wasn’t exactly what I usually read and was a great exploration into the different genres of fantasy and murder mystery.

I really enjoyed this book! The premise was really interesting and I never found myself bored by the plot. It constantly kept you on your toes wondering what Sam & Hel would experience next. I don’t read many murder mysteries but found myself really enjoying it, even with the occasional gore- the gothic and murder aspects were great for a novice like me sticking their toe into the genre. I (embarrassingly) have never read Dracula & Sherlock Holmes, so I didn’t initially understand the references at all to either of the books characters and googled it in order to immerse myself more into it. I imagine having read them would add even more experience to this book- however I didn’t feel like it was necessary in me enjoying it which I think is great when referencing as I was compelled enough to keep reading.

There is so much to love about the two main characters in this book. I love how the author explored different characterisations that may seem stereotypical to people but highlight how fleshed out people can be even if they fit (or don’t fit) certain stereotypes within their gender identity. I adored Sam and how she was the reclusive reader but also was a blonde fashionista that fit into the archetype of a more ladylike character from the time- and played the part of ditzy when it was in her advantage! I loved the banter between Hel and Sam. The chemistry was incredible and I loved their characters so much, their dialogue and wit were entertaining. I wish we had more scenes of romantic tension, just because I loved them so!

I love the authors take on monsters- however do not want to spoil anything for any readers- but just want to highlight that their exploration into monsters was unique in its depth.

There is so much to love about this book and the ideas explored within it, the ideas of women-hood, victimisation, identity, gender, (especially gender identity + gendered roles), how the era impacts all of these concepts and how this is all explored through a compelling and thoughtful murder mystery fantasy. A 4.5 read for me.

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I tend to divide perfect books in two categories. There are those that flawlessly accomplish what they're set out to. Then there are those that are riveting, breathtaking, surprising and ambitious. The kind of books that I'll be thinking long after I've read them.

Strange beasts falls under the latter category.

I don't usually read mystery, never been a fan of the genre, but Strange Beasts, being both mystery and fantasy, intrigued me. And once I picked it up, I literally could not put it down. Strange beasts didn't include ANY of those things I dislike about mystery books (and there are a lot), nor did it have any of those issues that fantasy books so often have. The novel balanced perfectly between the genres, with a splash of horror in there as well.

The plot is flawless, with more and more layers of the mystery unfolding over time, keeping me constantly on my toes yet without getting overwhelming. I honestly had no idea who the killer was, yet when I found out, it made sense. Every twist made me feel like 'aww man, I should've seen that coming!' In other words, perfection.

Set in early 1900's Paris, the book had just the amount of worldbuilding I like: the world is constantly present without drawing attention from the story. The author's descriptive style made me feel as if I was actually there.

The two main characters, Sam and Hel, feel like completely real people instead of mere characters. They're both flawed, yet strong in their own ways. I especially liked how there remained a certain amount of mystery around Hel all through the book.

My favorite thing was, in one word, the lore. Strange Beasts draws influence from classic novels and folklore of Western and Northwestern Europe, from Shakespeare to Arthur Conan Doyle, from Will-o'the'wisp to the Beast of Gévaudan. All of this in a dark, Parisian setting? The atmosphere is astounding. The author has done an incredible job at researching and learning about these things.
Another favorite thing: The themes. Feminism, morality, different types of strength and so on. YES.

That I can't read the second part right away. How can I wait?

This book is amazing. Definitely cracks top 3 reads of the year and top 10 reads of my life. I highly recommend.

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For the most part, I really, really enjoyed this. It gave me vibes of the 2003 Van Helsing movie meets Theodora Goss's The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series plus maybe a dash of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (wrong time period, I know, but I was thinking more the banter). All of this added up to something exactly for me. I liked Sam and Hel's relationship from reluctant partners to "Oh no I think I like this person??". Definitely a bit more of a slow burn, even if it doesn't exactly end up as a romance yet.

There are just a few things keeping this from being a 5-star for me:
1. I feel like there was a lot of build-up and the ending wasn't quite as satisfying for me. I'm not sure exactly what would have made it more satisfying exactly. I don't think the way things ended up was unsatisfying, more I think I wish the way to get there was a little less hurried?

2. There were a few moments, especially at the end, where the revelations felt a bit more heavily telegraphed than I felt was warranted. I think it's more a debut author thing because these moments felt very much like "I have to clarify things for the reader or else they may not understand". It felt a little like hesitance on the author's part to fully trust in both the writing and the readers' abilities to pick up on the finer details. Like, there was a lot of reiteration on certain facts where it started to feel repetitive rather than something for dramatic effect.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this and hope that it's a series because I'm fully locked-in and invested in where this could potentially go.

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I absolutely could not put this book down! I love the premise of having these descendents from classic monster stories fight their own monsters. Not only is the cast and story well though out, but the writing is phenomenal. I found myself actually laughing out loud multiple times, and so many of the sentences are just beautifully crafted- very quotable. I have been telling everyone I know about this book because I just can't help myself and I dont think ill be stopping anytime soon.

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“Men are entirely too quick to call a woman mad or monstrous just because she can do something they can’t.”

Strange Beasts was a fun read with a great story, a fair share of blood and violence, and really enjoyable FMCs. I really enjoyed the ties to Sherlock, nods to classic monster villains like werewolves and vampires, and the banter between Hel and Sam kept the dialogue engaging and relatable.

There were sometimes that the minor magic felt a bit unfounded. There could have been a little more backstory to help the reader more fully understand and believe the magic involved, but overall, I really enjoyed this story, and will definitely be reading any future books from Susan J. Morris.

Thank you to NetGalley, Inky Phoenix Press, and Susan J. Morris for allowing me the opportunity to review this digital ARC of Strange Beasts.

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This book had it all! I've read quite a few fictional detectives who were themselves inspired by fictional works, and this is easily one of the best that I can recall. In this book, Sam Harker and Helen Moriarity are trying to find a murderer. Sam is particularly invested as there is a connection to her long-lost grandfather, while Helen is just trying to make sure her dad isn't behind everything. They are initially skeptical of each other, but a believable relationship grows between them through the course of the book. The mystery itself was entertaining, steeped in lore, and while I guessed parts of it, I didn't guess all of it. Anyway, I enjoyed the character development, worldbuilding and plot, and would generally recommend this to mystery readers (it's pretty gorey, so probably not for the cozy folks).
Side note: This was fun enough that it made me question whether or not I've read Dracula (results: inconclusive) and I think I might actually (re)visit that classic. And as a general rule, I do not have the highest opinion of tHe CLaSsiCs (it varies, and I love some of 'em but I think many are highly overrated), so that's like very high praise indeed. Anyway, the ending of the book sets up a sequel and I shall be checking it out. 4 stars - I really enjoyed it.

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4.5 rounded up. Samantha Harker (Sam) is a researcher and daughter of Jonathan and Mina Harker; her world is the library and books. Dr. Helena Moriarty (Hel) is a field agent and daughter of the infamous Professor Moriarty; she's had three partners die suspiciously on previous cases and doesn't want a partner. Both work for the Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomena in the London Field Office and Strange Beasts has then reluctantly partnering up to investigate the suspected paranormal murders of wealthy and powerful men in Paris just after the turn of the century. Sam is a channel is has to contend with Van Helsing's son, her former friend and colleague, trying to get her sent back to London. Can they track down the Beast before it takes another victim?

I wasn't quite sure what to expect going in to this book, knowing that the protagonists are based off the children of renowned literary characters, but I was pleasantly surprised. The story is historical fiction/fantasy, but it finds non anachronistic ways to feel current that so not feel contrived. I can see where this story has been set up to allow for a sequel and I'd love to see more. You can expect a fair number of magical monster mentions or appearances: grindylow, werewolf, boggart, will o the whisp, etc.

Thank you to Bindery Books for an ARC on NetGalley. All opinions are my own. This book is due to be published 10/15/24.

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Morris’s novel contains many aspects I love: folklore, monster hunting, murder mysteries, Victorian/Edwardian era Europe as a setting – in other words, I went into this book already knowing I’d probably like it. No surprise, then, when I did!

Sam and Hel are both engaging, complex characters. Sam, the 3rd person POV readers follow, has a great mixture of knowledge from being the Harkers’ daughter, a paranormal researcher and librarian, a psychic channel, and a fashionista. Hel is a paranormal investigator and daughter of Professor Moriarty, a doctor of chemistry, and special-disposition-to-wear-pants-in-Paris badass. Their professional relationship and budding friendship were both well done, as was their investigation.

The folklore used was not-the-most-commonly referenced, which made for a much more interesting read. The mystery was well done, equally balancing exciting adventure with clue finding and cognitive leaps. One aspect of the novel that stood out to me was that women and their concerns were always centered in the narrative, not just with Sam and Hel, but with others they meet along the way. That helped, I think, to make it feel more contemporary and less male-centric like classics of that era tended to be.

The portion of the book that I am iffy about regards the romance between Sam and Hel. While I’m a fan of slowburn and non-sexual relationships, there was nothing throughout the book that indicated Sam had, or was developing, romantic interest in Hel. Sam shows a flirtatious level interest in a man, so readers have that for comparison. While Sam’s relationship with Hel is much more engaging as it develops, it’d be a stretch to call it romantic before a sudden kiss.

From the other end, Hel’s interest is very subtle to the point it could be argued it doesn’t exist. It’s easier to forgive this subtlety since Sam’s POV is used and Hel is a less emotionally expressive character, but it still felt incomplete. Likewise, Hel’s gender non-conforming dress, demeanor, and overall attitude are not commented on much. Having more explicit discussions of her gender identity and sexual orientation, or the presence of more gender non-conforming and sapphic characters interacting with our protagonists, would have been helpful in cementing how this universe handles Queer folx.

The romance aside, I loved this book, and if there is a sequel, I’ll definitely read it.

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I loved this book, I was maybe expecting a bit more of the sapphic romance but I think there are more books planned with these characters (the daughters of Moriarty from Sherlock, and Mina Harker from Dracula). I also enjoyed that the book had me going: Oh I know the perp, wait do I, no I do, but are you sure until the end. I did know, but I never second guessed my instinct before like that.

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ARC Reviewer! Thanks to NetGalley and Bindery for approving me!

What an absolutely fabulous way to debut! I enjoyed this whole novel beginning to end. I had so much fun trying to figure out who was behind the killings and never guessed it. I was left surprised in the best way!

Strange Beasts features the daughter of Dracula, Sam, who is on a mission to find her mysterious disappearing grandfather. When a lead catches her attention, she leaves the comfort of her library position at The Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomena and convinces Hel, the daughter of Professor Moriarty (Sherlock's nemesis), to let her be her partner on the case she is on. This could prove dangerous, however, because Hel's last three partners have all mysteriously died out in the field. Hel, or Dr. Helena Moriarty, and Sam, or Samantha Harker, set out to find who is killing all of these men. They run into an underground society, fashionistas, Van Hel Sing's son, a baker, a perfumer, and an opera cast with a rivalry. Each with only a piece of the puzzle. Will they be able to put the pieces together in time? Will Sam survive this case and find her grandfather? Susan J. Morris will keep you guessing!

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This story has a little bit of everything: Fun world building, a clever and twisty plot, interesting characters, interesting villains, interesting herrings in various shades of red, and some really great lines and descriptors:

“The first man was young, his eyes bright with drink. Nature had failed to furnish him with a chin, but he made up for it with a roguish scruffiness and a floral scarf around his neck.” and “She had a kind face, round cheeked with laugh lines and soft brown eyes that were currently contemplating the brass knuckle knives on her hands, the gentleman’s ear caught between two of the blades like a scrap of meat between teeth.”

Told from Samantha’s point of view, the book doesn’t let the reader get into the head of Helena “Hel” Moriarty, which I think it just as well. Like her famous father, Hel is supposed to be smarter, quicker, and more cunning than everyone else — everyone but her brother and father — and that’s a hard ask for any author. As it is, Sam’s admiration, vexation, indignation and reliance upon Hel’s skills gives enough of a shape to Hel’s character, and I think is very well done.

Sam, herself, is soft hearted, unused to physical efforts and violence, and it shows. Her sympathy for the women she meets, her use of soft power — making friends, playing up her womanly helplessness, even against Hel — net her better results than a gun or a knife. All in all she’s a very well done character.

The plot is nice, solid and well constructed, but the writing is what really worked for me. The difficulties of being a woman agent in a world where women are often seen as either workers, wives or mistresses and rarely as people of influence or authority lends a frustrating element to Sam and Hel’s efforts, and I enjoyed the various monsters scattered through the adventure.

The romance … well, I will say it worked for me, but it might not for everyone. Sam’s thoughts are so full of Hel, and her various feelings towards her, but because the book never shows Hel’s thoughts, I’m left having to judge her on her actions. (And that kiss!) It’s clear Hel is socially awkward and may be neurodivergant coded — that, or just really not good with people; her manner of speaking, her behavior isn’t that of someone courting a lover or someone falling in love, but it’s clear Hel comes to rely on Sam for the emotional support, for the quiet understanding, for being one of the few, and maybe only people in Hel’s life to look at her as being worth anything.

It’s a slow burn, and by the end of the book they’re only just starting to figure out what it is between them. So if you’re after something with more romance than plot, this book might not work for you. I want to thank Net Galley and the publisher for granting me access to an advanced reader copy

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This caught me so off guard, it was intriguing with a dark mystery involving beasts and gruesome murders. This is set in the olden days with characters such as Moriarity and van helsing who work for a supernatural hunters type guild investigating abnormal situations. This story kept me on my toes, I didnt quite guess why this was all happening but who was behind it was a little predictable, this doesnt take away from the adventure of the plot though.

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Fast paced, eerie atmosphere, monsters and a murder mystery with a little romance. This book has it all.
I can't wait for more.

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I read this courtesy Net Galley. Harker, van Helsing, Moriarty—as soon as I began reading this historical fantasy and recognized these names, I was intrigued and then sucked into this story and world. Samantha (Sam) Harker, the daughter of Jonathan and Mina, does research for the Royal Society for the Study of Abnormal Phenomena, but she yearns to be a field agent. She also has a secret: she can talk to the monsters the Society hunts—but admitting to that could result in her being one of the hunted. She gets her chance to be an investigator when she teams up with Helena Moriarty, daughter of the infamous James Moriarty, but since Hel’s previous partners have all died under odd circumstances, Sam knows there’s a reason to be wary. Then there’s Jakob van Helsing—the son of Abraham—who also works for the Society, and he doesn’t seem to be on their side (or at least on Sam’s side). For that matter, what’s going on at the Society? There are mysteries upon mysteries, secrets upon secrets. This book was a fun, absorbing read.
#StrangeBeasts #NetGalley #HistoricalFiction #Fantasy #Dracula #SherlockHolmes

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This is such a beautiful gothic tale, full of twists and turns! It is pitched as being Sherlock Holmes meets Dracula, and that holds true for this story. Every chapter kept me wondering and wanting more. I absolutely cannot wait for the second book, and more of Sam and Hel!

Read if you love:
•Gothic tales
•Slow burn sapphic romance
•Feminine rage

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This was such a fun book! With Sherlock Holmes-like sleuthing and hints of the supernatural filling the pages, Strange Beasts was a perfect mix of mystery and magic.
I always love murder mysteries set in the 1900’s but what particularly stood out to me in this novel were our two main characters. I love that authors are giving readers more well-written, strong female detectives. And the slow-burn romance between Hel and Sam was wonderfully done. It was great to read such a good sapphic romance during pride month.
If you are a fan of gothic novels or TV shows like Penny Dreadful where characters from Victorian ghost stories come to life, this book is for you.

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STRANGE BEASTS by Susan J. Morris

‘It takes a monster to hunt a monster’

In this dark, gothic, murder-mystery story, Professor Helena Moriarty and Samantha Harker must work together to catch the beast that’s murdering men in early 20th century Paris, while secrets from both their pasts push them into a game of clues, pawns and betrayals. If you enjoy dimly lit alleyways, catacombs and tea parlors intertwined with mythical creatures, Strange Beasts is the book for you.

When I first picked up this book, I was under the impression that it was a standalone. At the 60% mark, I was sad that I’d never get to see these characters again, since I’d fallen in love with them and felt like the story had so much more to explore. However, at the end, I happily found out that it was in fact the first instalment in a series (whether it’s a duology or longer, I don’t know yet). What I mean to say by this is that Strange Beasts was so good that it made me, someone who absolutely prefers standalones, want a sequel. And if you’re wondering about a cliffhanger: the mystery plot in this book is resolved by the end, while the overarching plot will continue in the next one (think Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries -type of ending).

The plot, brimming with plot-twist as more suspects appear, has an evident feminist undertone: Hel and Sam constantly struggle against society’s expectations for them as women, not only in terms of looks, but especially for their ability to hunt down the beast of Paris. Sam and Hel are two women hunting monsters in a society that strives to make monsters out of all women.

Hel and Sam were perfect foils for each other –the latter bubbly and soft, the former aloof and secretive. Sam especially reminded me of Cassandra of Troy, cursed (or blessed) with clairvoyance, yet dismissed or punished by men for her knowledge. While the sapphic romance elements were few (I’m sure these will be expanded in the next book), it was lovely to see their friendship develop as they both started to put their trust in each other.

Strange Beast was a thoroughly enjoyable read, and I will be (im)patiently waiting for the sequel.

**Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review**

@librisinetenebris (Instagram)

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