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The Devil You Know

by Mike Carey

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

Review by Martin Owton

cover scanThe 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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