Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Devil You Know (Felix Castor #1) (2006) by Mike Carey

The Devil You Know (Felix Castor #1) (2006) by Mike Carey (a.k.a. M.R. Carey): The prolific and enjoyable Mike Carey's first novel after more than a decade of fine work in comic-book writing on such titles as Hellblazer and Lucifer introduces us to London, England's favourite (ha!) freelance exorcist, Felix Castor. Castor moves through a world pretty much exactly like ours with one significant changed premise: about eight years before the events of this novel, various ghosts, spirits, and demons started to appear in the world. Now they're pretty much everywhere, with no real explanation as to why the afterlife expelled so many creatures and dead people.

Carey does a lovely job of giving us just enough back-story and exposition to keep us afloat in this strange new world. Exorcism is something that only certain individuals can do, regardless of religious affiliation (of which Castor has none). Castor plays tunes on a tin whistle to work his exorcisms, while others use anything from cat's cradles to more traditional bells, books, and candles. Exorcism is basically a state of mind and a talent linked to that mind that can take pretty much any form. When it works, exorcism sends the ghost away. Where? Castor doesn't know.

In this first adventure, the not-very-hard-boiled Castor takes an assignment to purge a rare documents library of a newly acquired ghost which seems to have arrived with a shipment of pre-Revolutionary Russian documents. 

Of course, nothing is as it seems. Castor will soon come to question the ethics of exorcism itself. He'll also have to face human crime-lords, a giant were-something that looks just barely human, and a succubus called up from Hell. There will also be an embarrassing moment at a wedding and a moment of seriocomic vengeance at an annoying teen's birthday party.

Everything goes down smoothly and enjoyably. Carey's imagination is a fun place to stroll around in, his characters deftly sketched, and Castor an occasionally guilt-wracked but generally witty and humane narrator. 

And then there's Castor's best friend Rafi, in an insane asylum with a demon welded to his soul. That's partially Castor's fault, and the Rafi story-line will gain in prominence as the five Felix Castor novels play out. Recommended.

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