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This review is for the paperback book "The Devil You Know" by Mike Carey, part of the Felix Castor series. The book was first published in 2006 by Orbit, but is still in print. Mike Carey has spent many recent years in the comic genre, but this is his first novel.
The book is a supernatural and detective thriller which is set in London and the main character is Felix Castor, and we see the book from his eyes. Castor works independently as an exorcist who is called into a London property to remove a ghost. He gets deeper and deeper into the darkness the more he discovers about the ghost.
Castor discovers that the ghost is of a woman, and that she is permanently hidden behind a sort of fog. The book is fast paced and is a bit of a cross between a detective story and a horror story, which I found quite well. The character development is good, and the plot in itself is quite believeable so it's easy to get into the book.
I did find that the book was quite satisfying insomuch that everything in the book, the plots and characters do all come together, and the book makes sense as a whole. The various twists and threads aren't always predictable, which makes for a more interesting read.
I also enjoyed the way that London, and its dark side, are the background of this book, it seemed to add an extra dimension to the title. There is a very urban feel to the whole book, and I did notice a few other reviewers of this book use the phrase "urban fantasy" which seems like a good name for this genre of books.
If I did have a complaint with this book, it's that it's a little overlong, weighing in at nearly 500 pages long. The book could have done with being shorter, which might have made it more fast paced and just that bit readable. I found that the start of the book specifically did seem to be a bit difficult to get into, which unfortunately might put some readers off. The style of the book though interested me, as did the subject matter, so I'd still say that the book was a well written one.
I have yet to read these other titles, but there are some sequels in this series featuring Felix Castor. The next book in the series is "Vicious Circle", then "Dead Men's Boots" and then "Thicker Than Water" which was published in 2009. More titles are currently being planned and these are also being published in the United States.
The book retails at 7.99 pounds but at the time of writing the book is available on Amazon for 5.99 pounds. If you're happy with a second hand copy, these are currently available for around three to four pounds including postage from sites such as eBay and Amazon.
In summary, this is a good book with an enjoyable style of writing and an interesting subject matter. The book is probably a little over-long, but it's definitely worth looking at if you like supernatural thrillers, and I'll be looking out for the other works by this author based on Felix Castor. I'm personally scared of ghosts, but it certainly sounds like an interesting profession that Castor has, being a full-time ghost hunter!
If you allowed 70s children's TV shows to rule your life you would believe that 'Rent-a-Ghost' was your port of call for the supernatural. What could be more useful against an enraged werewolf than a strangely bearded man dressed as a jester? His mad chuckles aren't going to get him too far with fangs at his neck. Perhaps you lean to more modern TV viewing and you would hire strangely camp Liverpudlian Derek Acorah? I'm afraid that this con man is unlikely to be much help if a real ghost turned up; he would too busy hiding in the corner behind piles of cash made up of donations from gullible viewers. In a world that might actually contain dangerous monster, ghoulies and manifestations you want a man who knows his onions. Well at least a man who can whistle the right tune.
Felix Castor is an exorcist in a version of modern day London were ghosts are a common occurrence. When not exercising demons he is usually entertaining at children's parties. His weapon of choice to destroy ghosts is a whistle, armed with this he takes on a job that a friend has already told him will end his life. Deep within an academic archive a female ghost has started to haunt the staff. She disrupts work and has even known to be violent. The head of the archive hires Castor to exercise the ghost and to do this Castor must first investigate why she is there. This investigation soon leads Castor away from the archive and into a world of deadly gangsters and human trafficking. What has this all got to do with a sleepy archive and a vengeful succubus?
There is so much untapped potential in 'The Devil you Know' that the book becomes increasingly a lesson in frustration as it progresses. As a core concept Mike Carey has created a fantastic universe. Carey is the creator of 'Hellblazer' that later went on to become a movie starring Keanu Reeves called 'Constantine'. 'Devil' covers similar ground to the film, and more importantly the original comic source, as it is set in a very modern feeling Britain. The normality of city life is perfectly partnered with the idea that ghosts have suddenly started to appear more often. There are a few sceptics left, but it's pretty well known that they are among us. If Carey had treated the subject poorly the entire concept would have been undermined, instead he creates a matter of fact feel to it and it works.
Carey has also managed to create a great character in Felix Castor. He is your typical PI antihero who just happens to be able to use music to exorcise ghosts. Castor is a pretty complex character as on the surface he seems a scumbag out for the money, but we soon realise that he has hidden depths. I also liked the fact that he was ready for the inevitable beatings that life gives you. Not since Colin Bateman's Dan Starkey books have I seen a man take so many punches in the name of an investigation. When Castor is in full sardonic flow and winding up a baddie, Carey is at his best.
Therefore, with a very interesting concept that is well designed and a central character that is both engaging and amusing what has Carey done wrong? I am afraid that there is really only one large issue that makes this book less enjoyable than it should be - pacing. This is Carey's novel debut and for that I can forgive a multitude of sins, however, I can not forgive the fact that the book is too long and boring in places. At over 400+ pages there is not enough editing. Rather than get to the exciting elements of the story Carey spends vast amounts of time going into too much detail about extraneous details that I can live without. There is also a smaller issue that the investigation itself gets slightly confusing as the books draws to an end.
Should you go out and buy 'The Devil you Know'? If you are a fan of other supernatural crime authors like Jim Butcher there will easily be enough here to keep you entertained. The book is funny and intelligent; it's just that it's too long for its own good. What does bode well is that the ending leaves future sequels open to some very interesting directions. This means that 'The Devil You Know' may not be better than any other book, but may eventually become a solid introduction to a great series of novels.
Author: Mike Carey
Price: amazon uk - £5.49
play.com - £5.49