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The Devil You Know

by Mike Carey

(Orbit, £6.99, 470 pages, paperback, published April 2006.)

Review by Christopher Teague

cover scanFelix Castor is a freelance exorcist, though we first meet him working as a children's entertainer. Hardly the most auspicious of starts, yet it does illustrate just how much of an anti-hero Castor is - a bit of a bastard, to be quite blunt.

Mike Carey is not a new writer, but this is his debut novel; he has been writing comics for many years, the most famous being Hellblazer and Lucifer. Even if I didn't know this, I would still hazard a guess that the prose was penned by a comics writer: a breathless pace, with an eye for visual effect and stirring action set-pieces.

To summarise the plot would spoil the book a little, but suffice to say the sardonic Castor is called upon to exorcise a spirit that haunts the archives of the British Library; within this we delve into the seedy underbelly of London, away from the tourists, a world populated by Eastern European people-smugglers, brothel-keepers and - as we find out - where the dead have risen from the grave, to the point where they actually have rights.

This is not a work of literature, and like many a modern book it is a tad too long, but the reader's journey is an immensely enjoyable one, with a varied mix of secondary characters that are in the main stereotypes whose only purpose is to help the story along, but Castor is, as you would expect, a fully-rounded three dimensional creation; a guy you wouldn't particulary want to know, yet he would be a good friend to have.

Orbit is marketing this book as "horror" which is highly commendable in today's publishing climate, but don't expect a Stephen King or James Herbert - it's more of a crime story with elements of the supernatural, and I for one am looking forward to reading further instalments of Felix Castor, including The Vicious Circle which is sitting on my to read pile as I write.

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