The Devil You Know (2006)
First off, I believe this was shelved in the mystery section, which is part of why I put off reading it. It wasn’t what I wanted when I was in the mood for a mystery. This isn’t to say it isn’t a mystery–it is. However, first and foremost it’s supernatural fantasy. I’m pretty sure if I’d pigeonholed this differently, I would have read it much sooner; this wasn’t what I wanted to read when I was in the mood for another Victorian or Forensic mystery. However, it hit the sweet spot for supernatural mysteries.
Also, the synopsis on the back of the book seemed unrelated to the book I actually read.
Felix Castor is an exorcist. For the time being he has walked away from his job and his calling after an exorcism more than a year ago went terribly wrong. But he’ll do anything for his friend and landlady, which is how he ends up taking a gig as a stage magician to help make ends meet.
Felix Castor’s London isn’t quite today’s London. Ghosts are real and everyone knows about them–even if not everyone truly believes in them. So Felix’s job as a freelance exorcist is unusual, but not unheard of–he’s not the only exorcist in the phone book.
Felix has all kinds of problems. He’s suffering tremendous guilt after his last exorcism, he’s struggling to make ends meet, and he’s tired of being single. Unfortunately, all these problems come together in one unholy mess to make his life miserable.
I have to admit that–especially at the beginning–Felix reminded me quite a bit of Constantine. But relatively quickly Felix picked up his own personality and quirks and thoughts of Hellblazer faded into the background. Felix has his own problems and issues, as well as his own strengths and weaknesses. So although a comparison to Constantine is inevitable (especially as Mike Carey has done some writing for Hellblazer), I don’t think I direct comparison is justified, since they are very different characters.
I particularly liked the slow discovery of who Felix is and how he does what he does. Since his world isn’t quite our world, there is a fair amount of world building that needs to be done, but that world building is tied to our discovery of Felix’s past, so it’s not noticeable as world building as I was eager to learn about Felix’s past and how he became who he was.
Published by Orbit
Re-Read: March 2015
(T)he Bible is strangely coy on the subject of the were-kind, hedges its bets on demons, and draws a big fat blank on ghosts, so the Christians and the Jews didn’t really seem to be any better placed than the rest of us to call the toss.
But he’s refused all jobs after his last job–one he was doing for free, for a friend–went terribly horribly wrong. But he’s about to take on a case against his better judgment, and get himself in way over his head.
I really like Castor. For some reason, I remembered him as being far more of a jerk, and he really isn’t. He’s not entirely ethical, but he’s not a complete SOB… well, mostly.
James Dodson, the birthday boy’s father. I took a strong dislike to him right then to save time and effort later.
But he does have a conscience, as much as he tries to ignore it.
And I really like Cheryl.
“What about me?” Cheryl demanded, pretending to be hurt at being left out. “When are you gonna interview me?”
“Straight afterward,” I promised. “You’re second on my list.”
She brightened. “Go to hell, copper. I won’t talk.”
“I’ll make you talk,” I promised. I wondered if all conversations with Cheryl had this surreal edge.
I would love to hang out with Cheryl, though I have a suspicion that it might be a bit like hanging out with myself.
And this is a re-read. After listening to the first book, I decided I wanted to re-read the entire series, but wanted to go back and catch a couple things I’d missed listening. (A hazard of listening on my daily walk. People stop and ask me questions, and I miss things.)
The Devil You Know, Audible Version (2006/2007) narrated by Michael Kramer
All my recent favorites have been full of British accents (few of which are posh, which makes it all the better).
I read the Felix Castor series years ago, and had managed to forget the main points of the plot. Because Mike Carey has written Hellblazer, I believe I ran the two together in my mind, and remembered Fix as much more of a bastard than he actually is.
Mind you, he’s not a saint by any means, but he actually tries to be a stand-up guy, even if that led him to do something that worked out really badly for everyone involved. (It wasn’t his fault, but he blames himself.)
Felix is casts out ghosts–a profession that became much in need after the dead started to come back in numbers. He’s been able to do so since he was a child, and his tool of choice is a tin whistle. All exorcists have their own way of performing exorcisms, and Felix’s involves music.
This is a very dark book. Of course there is murder (the ghosts who die in the sleep seemingly less likely to haunt than those who died tragically) but Fix works in the darker parts of London, and his job leads him to parts darker still.
What makes it difficult is that the ghosts aren’t really the cause of the darkness, rather they are more a symptom. And having come from writing John Constantine, Mike Carey has no qualms about showing you those darker parts. SO be prepared if you are faint of heart.
Me? I really enjoyed this series, and the narration is very good.
Published by Tantor Audio
Vicious Circle (2006)
Felix (Fix) Castor, who is usually at loose ends, is suddenly involved in three different cases. As a consultant in a police case, in a missing child case, and in assisting Juliet with a case she has taken on involving a haunted or possessed church. Additionally, he is still trying to find a way to free Rafi from the clutches of Asmodeus, and to get solvent with his friend and landlady, Pen.
Someone is warning him off the case, but unfortunately for him, he has no idea which case they mean.
I started this book two days ago, and was planning on reading a couple chapters a night. Last night when I picked up the book I was halfway in, and unfortunately for my day today, didn’t put down the book until I finished it, which was after midnight (and way past my weekday bedtime.)
Despite the fact Felix remains a bit of a bastard, I still like him. He has priorities with which I agree, and although he has to make hard choices based upon those priorities, he does the right thing–at least as far as I am concerned.
Vicious Circle has a fair amount of horror, but then Felix is an exorcise who deals with demons, so the amount of horror isn’t particularly surprising. I’m not necessarily a fan of horror, though I’m far more okay with gruesome than I am with scary, but this story isn’t just horror or supernatural fantasy, but is also a mystery–a fascinating if gruesome mystery that went places I didn’t expect yet had a logical (if depressing) conclusion.
If you like supernatural mysteries, then I highly recommend checking out Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series. But start with The Devil You Know to give you a better idea of the history between Pen and Rafi and Felix.
Published by Orbit
Re-Read: March 2015
Felix Castor can’t stay out of trouble. He’s taking some consulting work for the police, to bring in some money, but when parents as him to find their daughter–who is a ghost–Felix gets in bigger trouble than even he expected.
There’s just something about the writing in these books. Felix is snarky as all get out.
I wasn’t wasting any sympathy, because you never know when you’re going to run out.
(A) hangover of the spirit. How the hell do you cure that? A hair of the god that bit you?
(T)his thing was all dark red wood and elegant curves. No gun that dolls itself up as pretty as that ever gets asked out to an actual battle.
But it’s the other bits that I love. The random phrases and facts that are dropped in.
Laying the doll down on the steering wheel like a tiny Ixion…
Early Gothic, very early, taking its shape from Abbé Suger’s original prescription…
Non sibi sed toti, usually translated as “I hope you brought enough for everyone.”
(R)ight then I felt like one of those poor guys in Plato’s cave
I signed the day book as Frederick Cheney LaRue, a name that had stuck with me after I read that Woodward and Bernstein book about Watergate.
I mean, how can I not love a book with references like that?
Dead Men’s Boots (2007)
I’ve actually been waiting for this book for awhile. The American publishing and access to this series is… quirky. I was able to get the British copies of the two books that follow this, but I had to wait about a year for this to be put out by an American publisher.
Come on folks, you don’t have to take out all the Britishisms for us to enjoy a good story!
Felix Castor has to go to a funeral, the funeral of John Gittings, an exorcist who took his own life. Felix feels guilty because he ignored John’s calls, and wonders if he could have saved John’s life if he’d answered those calls. That guilt leads him to helping John’s widow more than he wants to, which in turn gets him tied up in the case that may well have caused John to kill himself.
The Rafi thread is still here, although it plays a background role right now, and shows no signs of being concluded any time soon, which is perfectly fine, because there may well be no solution.
The story that Felix stumbles into is actually a very interesting one. There’s no way to discuss why it was interesting without giving it away, but it is an interesting idea.
If you like Constantine or Harry Dresden, you might want to check out the Felix Castor series, though you should probably start at book one, The Devil You Know.
Published by Grand Central Publishing
Re-Read: April 2015
The last book ended with Castor being booted out of his living quarters by Pen, and the Stranger giving him 30 days to find somewhere else for Rafi, or they were sending him to Jenna-Jane Mulbridge–a fate even worse that his current miserable situation, timesharing his body with the demon Asmodeus.
This book opens with Castor’s situation not much better, and the funeral of John Gittings, another exorcist (whom you might remember from the first book, when John almost got Castor killed, changing the plan to exorcise a loup-garou midway through. John’s widow wants Castor’s help to settle the ghost, and Castor (who hadn’t returned any of John’s recent calls) acceeds out of guilt.
With all that, Castor still doesn’t have much choice when a woman comes to him wanting his assistance in getting her husband off the hook for murder–because he was posessed by a ghost.
As usual with these books, what I especially love is Castor’s sarcasm and wit.
On the door frame there were a good half-dozen wards against the dead, ranging from a sprig of silver birch bound with white thread to a crudely drawn magic circle with the word ekpiptein written across it in Greek script. That translates as “bugger off until you’re wanted, you bodiless bastards.” Greek is a very concise language.
A very precise language indeed.
And some random references to very obscure knowledge:
“The name he gave her was Bergson.” I almost laughed. “I think that’s a pretty rarefied pun,” I said. “Bergson was a French philosopher back in the thirties. I think he had some idea about a universe of pure spirit. Kind of like Plato, only with a more outrageous accent.”
Plus, some occasional advice.
I’ve always found anger a good corrective to grief. Grief paralyzes you, where a good head of hacked-off biliousness keeps you moving right along, although it’s not so great for making you look where you’re going.
And as always, lots of fun words:
Including Greek and Latin, and I remain irritated that the kindle won’t translate either on the fly.
I do enjoy this series.
Thicker than Water (2008)
Felix gets a call to come out to a crime scene–something that had not happened since he was accused of murder and became persona non grata with the police. Unsurprisingly, nothing good comes of the call, and Felix is embroiled in a mystery involving involving individuals from his past–way back in his past.
Additionally, Jenna-Jane has taken a grab at Rafi, and Fix and Pen are struggling to keep him out of her hands.
All in all, Felix is once again in over his head.
First things first, I’ve had a heck of a time trying to get the order of these books straight. They were published first in Great Britain, and are (slowly!) being republished in the US. Which means I received this book and the following book long before I received the third book in the series.
But I do have to order correct now, and I have one book left that’s out (in the US anyway) and no sequel in sight.
Which makes me concerned about reading the next book.
Especially considering the conclusion of this book.
So yes, I hate cliffhanger endings, and I hate waiting for sequels, but if I have to have a cliffhanger ending, Mike Carey did a good job with this one. The main thread is concluded, and much of the book (the series even) has been building towards the event that happens at the end of the book. Not that you could see the specifics coming, but the situation is going to have to be resolved, so what he did actually makes sense.
SPOILER (rot 13)
Naq UBYL PBJ V ernyyl yvxrq gur eriryngvba ng gur raq nf gb jurer qrzbaf pbzr sebz. Vg znqr frafr tbvat onpx, ohg wrrfu, V gbgnyyl qvqa’g frr gung pbzvat ng nyy.
V nyfb gubhtug gur ovg jvgu uvf oebgure Zngg jnf tbvat fbzrjurer ryfr ragveryl (naq jnf tynq vg qvqa’g tb jurer V jnf nsenvq vg jnf tbvat.
Obgu bs gurfr cnegf jrer irel avpryl qbar.
If you are not reading the Felix Castor books, I highly recommend them. I also recommend starting at the first book and working your way towards this book.
Published by Orbit
The Naming of the Beasts (2009)
The last Felix Castor book, Thicker than Water, ended with the escape of Asmodeus. Not a very good point to end a story in my opinion, however, it was a logical conclusion to the way things were going, so I didn’t particularly mind. After all, the series has been working up to Castor dealing with Asmodeus, so we knew this was coming, and the situation really does deserve a long and thrilling conclusion.
After Asmodeus’ escape, Felix turned to his favorite solution–drowning his pain and sorrows in alcohol. And when he finally pulls himself out of his bender, he’s called to a murder scene where there are many many unpleasant discoveries to be made.
I have to say this really feels like the Grand Finale to the Felix Castor series. And if it is? I’m OK with that.
Unsurprisingly, Felix calls in all his cards and racks up debt in this story like nobody’s business. There are many many surprising things he does, not the least of which is who he turns to for help in trying to deal with Asmodeus.
Funny thing is, for as much of a bastard Fix has been throughout the series, looking back you can see that he isn’t really quite the SOB he’s seemed, and as selfish as he can seem at times, he occasionally does a good thing. And despite everything, he’s quite willing to man up to his mistakes, even though he is quite as good and being gracious when others do the same.
I also like that although Felix believes that everyone working for Jenna-Jane and Thomas Gwilliam, he’s willing to work with those who are willing to listen to what he has to say–even if it’s just a tiny bit.
If you have not been reading the Felix Castor series, do NOT start here. Go back to the beginning and work your way forward. Because this book is what the series has been working up to, and you really don’t want to come in at the end.
Published by Orbit
Mike Carey is another favorite author, especially his Felix Castor series. “Non-Event” begins at the end, with the supervillain being interrogated after the plan goes all wrong.
All in all, it was a fun collection, and well worth checking out.
Luckily, the title is not reflective of most of the stories inside.
“Iphigenia in Aulis” by Mike Carey is an amazing story. We learn bits and pieces as the story progresses, and the more we learn, the more horrified we are. This is a stand alone story not set in any of his existing worlds (that I know of).
All in all, it was a decent selection of short stories that made up for terrible title.
Published by Ace
Mike Carey's website