The Devil You Know
(Orbit, £6.99, 470 pages, paperback, published April 2006.)
Devil You Know is the first novel by British writer Mike Carey and
features freelance exorcist Felix Castor. While this is his first novel,
Mike Carey is not a new writer; he comes with a distinguished background
in comics, graphic novels and screenwriting and this clearly evident
in the slickness of his writing here.
The setting is contemporary London with the twist that there has been
a great upsurge in supernatural events. Ghosts abound, zombies walk
the streets, demons and were-creatures lurk in the dark. All this makes
for abundant work for someone like Felix Castor. His particular skill
lies in the laying of ghosts by music, specifically by weaving it into
a tune on his tin whistle and when he lets the tune fade the ghost goes
with it. At the beginning of the novel, Castor accepts the job of removing
a ghost that is haunting the Bonnington Archive in Euston. Seems simple
enough, but things quickly get more complicated, leading Castor into
dangerous waters. There is murder, human trafficking and human criminals
with some very nasty supernatural allies.
We are firmly in detective noir territory here and Mike Carey
pulls it off admirably. The characters are nicely realised, the London
settings drip authenticity and the premise is so smoothly delivered
that you never question it. The story rocks along at a good page-turning
pace, we get enough backstory to understand Castor, but it never clogs
the action. The denouement is truly satisfying and just when you think
Mike Carey has wrapped up all the loose ends, he delivers a lovely twist
in the final chapter that sets up a really juicy sequel.
In short this book is gem. My inner critic shut down within a few pages
and thereafter I read this for pleasure. I look forward to the next
Felix Castor adventure.
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