Mike Carey


Felix Castor: The Devil You Know (2006), Vicious Circle (2006), Dead Men’s Boots (2007), Thicker than Water (2008), The Naming of the Beasts (2009)

Anthologies: Masked (2010), An Apple for the Creature (2012)


Felix Castor


The Devil You Know (2006)

The-devil-you-know“I don’t know what I want to read.” Peruses bookshelves. “I remember buying The Devil You Know, why haven’t I read it yet?” Reads first paragraph. “Hmmm….” Hours later. “Wow!”

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, a job that has been quite in demand since the dead starting coming back in the late 90s.

(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.

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
Rating: 7/10

Re-Read: March 2015
Rating: 8/10

The Devil You Know, Audible Version (2006/2007) narrated by Michael Kramer

I fear I am becoming an audio book snob.

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
Rating: 9/10

Re-Listen: August 2018
Rating: 8/10

Vicious Circle (2006)Vicious-Circle

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.

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?

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
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: March 2015
Rating: 8/10

Audio Edition (2006/2008) narrated by Michael Kramer

Since Felix is not longer comfortable doing exorcisms, he’s been acting as a consultant for the Met–reading murder scenes to see if he can get an idea of what happened. After reading a particularly brutal murder, he then has to go to the Stanger, where Rafi is still being held, although that seems to be further and further up in the air.

Felix ends up trying to calm Rafi down after something seems to go terribly wrong; except that when Rafi wakes up, he seems to be back to normal.

Additionally, a couple come to Felix asking him to find their dead daughter–her ghost had been stolen / kidnapped and they wanted her back.

We also discover that the Catholic church has a group that keeps loup-garou in retainer. AND Juliet asks Felix to come double check a location she’s been called to exorcise.

A whole lot of things going on, any one of which could cause problems for Felix.

And does, since he ends up getting beaten up and eventually accused of murder.

This is the book Michael and I are listening to in the car. It’d been years since I last ready the books, and Michael may not actually have read the entire series, so it’s working out well.

Mostly because I really like Felix’s smart-ass take on everything.

I wasn’t wasting any sympathy, because you never know when you’re going to run out.

…hangover of the spirit. How the hell do you cure that? A hair of the god that bit you?

The world-spirit. Right, because there’s a consciousness in back of the universe and it loves all its children: we get daily evidence of that in terms of famine, plague, and flood.

I also like the narrator for this series, although I’ll admit that listening to two series set in London and environs, with smart-ass protagonists is a bit disconcerting.

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Rating: 8/10

Dead Men’s Boots (2007)

Dead-Mens-BootsI’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.

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.

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
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: April 2015
Rating: 8/10

Audio Edition (2007/2009) narrated by Michael Kramer

The third Felix Castor book finds Fix attending the funeral of a fellow exorcist–one whose calls Felix ignored.

The widow asks Felix for help, which draws him into a mystery that John had been trying to solve–and may have gotten him killed.

I’m enjoying listening to this story, since it’s been so long since I’ve read it, I’d forgotten most of the details.

I do however take great issue with one bit.

SEVENTEEN MILES OUT OF town, but they were country miles, and I was tired. Jouncing around on the dirt tracks, our progress punctuated by potholes and thick roots…

…for all the world as if we weren’t driving along a narrow dirt track at 130 miles an hour.

No. No no no no no.

That is, quite literally, impossible. ESPECIALLY in some sort of sedan.

Aside from that, it’s good.

Publisher: Tantor Audio
Rating: 8/10

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)

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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
Rating: 9/10

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
Rating: 9/10

Audio Book (2009) narrated by Michael Kramer

This is the final book of the Felix Castor series. It also switches back to Michael Kramer as the narrator, which was very jarring. The previous book switched to a narrator I really liked, which made Michael Kramer’s narrator fall even flatter. It’s not that he’s bad–he’s not–he just is nowhere near as good at the different voices (Juliette is particularly jarring) and it made the audio version a little less enjoyable.

Also a little less enjoyable is that this is my least favorite book of the series.

Yes, we get the resolution we’ve been coming towards in the previous four books, but this book makes me wonder why on earth Felix (nevermind Pen) cared so much about Rafi.

The ending also bothers me, in that Rafi seemingly gets off scot-free, while Fix and everyone else pays the price for his mistakes years earlier.

It’s not that I think Rafi deserved to suffer, but aside from lost years (that he doesn’t remember) he gets to pick up his life without any real consequences for the actions that got him involved with Asmodeus in the first place.

It makes me feel as if he’s going to continue along the path he was taking that led him to that bathtub.

But it’s complicated, because there is no way Rafi could remain sane, remembering all the things Asmodeus did when he had control over those final days. It’s ugly, and there was no way out of it, but it really really bothers me that Rafi essentially gets away with everything, and doesn’t have to remember any of the consequences of his actions. (And how he got away with things Asmodeus did legally?)

So, this was a somewhat disappointing ending to this series.

Publisher: Hachette Audio
Rating: 7/10



Masked (2010) edited by Lou Anders

Masked is a collection of superhero stories by a variety of writers, many of whom are well known comic writers.

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.
Rating: 8/10

An Apple for the Creature (2012) edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner

First, I hate this title. It grates on my nerves like nails down a chalkboard.

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
Rating: 7/10