THE DEVIL YOU KNOW
Felix Castor, book 1
2006, Warner Books/Hachette Book Group
Plot Summary: Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist, and London is his stamping ground. It may seem like a good ghostbuster can charge what he likes and enjoy a hell of a lifestyle–but there’s a risk: Sooner or later he’s going to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him. While trying to back out of this ill-conceived career, Castor accepts a seemingly simple ghost-hunting case at a museum in the shadowy heart of London–just to pay the bills, you understand. But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize. That’s OK: Castor knows how to deal with the dead. It’s the living who piss him off… [Amazon]
Creature Feature: Ghosts, demons.
Worldbuilding: The story is set in a London, England that looks just like today, but for the ghosts walking around. Not everyone can see them, though, but there seems to be quite a few more people with ghost-seeing abilities in this story than in real life.
As a book lover, I adored that the story is centred around the Bonnington Archive. Seventy-five miles of shelving and eighty percent full sounds just about like heaven to me.
The Bonnington Archive itself stood out from the low-rise concrete monstrosities around it like a spinster among sprawling drunks. It looked to be early ninteenth century, in dark brick, four stories high, with meticulous patterns set into the brickwork underneath each row of windows, like vertical parquet. I liked it. It had the look of a palace that had been built at the whim of some senior civil servant who wanted fifedom, but then had died, like Ferdinand the First before he could walk across the threshold of his Belvedere. (p. 55)
Characterization: I find Felix “Fix” Castor to be chivalrous and caring– traits that tend to get him into trouble rather than save him from it. He reminds me of Harry Dresden, but darker, more flawed.
Originality: There are original elements like ghosts being bound by music, and then there are more familiar elements like demonic possession, but even then, Carey’s given them a refreshing twist.
When I had a psychic fix on the ghost that was vivid enough and whole enough, I could take out my whistle and finish the job; the impression I form and hold in my mind while I play is the burden of the cantrip that I weave, and music is the medium that expresses it. (p. 121)
Believability: You know how some books have you rolling your eyes and muttering “Oh, yeah right. Like that could happen.”? I didn’t have any of those moments with THE DEVIL YOU KNOW. The characters’ motivations were tight. The magic makes sense. Demonic possession? Makes sense. Carey is not new to story-spinning and it shows. He’s a master.
Storytelling: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is witty and dark, an urban fantasy with a tasty noir flavour. It’ll keep you up at night, dying to get to the end. Though THE DEVIL YOU KNOW is not a light read, you don’t require a Master’s to get through it either. Carey’s words will satisfy both those who like their prose dense and those who like it light. I found myself sinking into the story quite easily.
Badass Factor: Exorcists aren’t exactly heroes in this world, and Castor has his share of enemies, even some he doesn’t know about. The bad guys have a lot to lose if Castor gets in the way, so the bad guys are appropriately bad, er, well-done. They put Castor through the ringer, anyway.
TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) Moments : Castor has a tendency to do too much on his own, without back-up, and to ignore good advice, but always in the name of doing the right thing. I didn’t feel he was stupid. It was more like watching a puppy skid on hardwood floors and plow into a wall. Adorable, yet painful and as spell-binding as Castor playing a tin whistle.
He ignored that and just kept coming toward me. I was hoping that the crowbar might give him a moment’s pause, but he must have been threatened by bigger men than me and probably eaten them for breakfast. (p. 371)
Buy/Borrow/By-pass: The MMPB version is definitely on my Buy list. I like Felix and look forward to spending time with him, and certainly if I had the cash, I’d Auto-Buy the hardcovers.
Did you know? Mike Carey also writes comic books. He’s the author behind Lucifer and Hellblazer, and he’s now at work on X-Men. Check his website for all the info. To find out more about the Felix Castor books, visit Orbit’s Mike Carey website.
Note: The UK is several books ahead of the North America releases. In NA, the publisher is putting out the MMPB at the same time as the next hardcover. Hopefully someday they’ll separate them by about 6 months and catch up with the UK.