Review of The Devil You Know by Mike Carey


You’ve just put down the latest Harry Dresden instalment with a sad sigh, already missing the sharp asides from our hero. Cheer up, there’s another kid on the block – every bit as sardonic, hard-boiled-yet-vulnerable as Jim Butcher’s entertaining protagonist. Felix Castor. Apologies for those of you who have already discovered this series which apparently has been knocking around for a while, but I’ve only just tripped over Mike Carey’s world.

thedevilyouknowFelix Castor is a freelance exorcist and London is his stamping ground. At a time when the supernatural world is in upheaval and spilling over into the mundane reality of the living, his skills are in desperate demand. A good exorcist can charge what he likes. But there’s a risk: sooner or later he’s likely to take on a spirit that’s too strong for him. Then it’s game over.

Castor has been ‘retired’ for a year or more after a close encounter that he only just survived. But now old debts – of more than one kind – draw him back to the life he rejected, and he accepts a seemingly simple exorcism. Trouble is, the more he discovers about the ghost in the archive, the more things refuse to add up – and the more deeply he’s dragged into a world he really doesn’t want to know about. What should have been a perfectly straightforward job is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons, were-beings and ghosts all lining up to claim the big prize.

Carey is an experienced writer and it shows. London is well depicted without the torrent of detail Kate Griffin gives us. The cast of characters are intriguing and suitably complex, with Felix Castor’s enjoyably sardonic narration giving us a front seat into a fast-paced story that offers up a series of surprises and interesting characters.. A word of warning, though. Carey’s writing is on grittier end of the urban fantasy genre. The use of strong language reflects this and although supernatural beings do crop up in Castor’s world fairly regularly, the thrust of the story is concerned with the grubbier end of human endeavours. What relieves the grim undertow is the dry, humorous asides to the reader. I also enjoyed the fact that Castor regularly wonders where the ghosts come from – and what happens to them after he’s expunged them from our world. Is he, in effect, killing them? It’s a question that bothers him.

Carey satisfactorily ties up all the loose ends, particularly those connected with the storyline. I know this has begun to sound like a bit of an obsession of mine, but I just hate it when a writer pulls you into their world, takes you on a journey and then strands you by not properly finishing off the narrative – something, I hasten to add, that Carey is NOT guilty of. Trawling the internet, I find that Carey has written four other Felix Castor novels, so I’m about to get hold of Vicious Circle, the second book in the series.

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