Friday, 7 September 2007
'Dead Men's Boots' - Mike Carey (Orbit Books)
For me to stop partway into a book and pick up another, the new book has to be something that I know will be pretty special. I will have either enjoyed previous books, in the series, or people (whose opinions I trust) will have talked it up. Through absolutely no fault of it's own, John Beachem's 'Storms of Vengeance' got put to one side the second Mike Carey's new Felix Castor novel was couriered to my office (And how posh did that make me feel? That's another story…)
Mike Carey is perhaps better known for his work on 'Lucifer' and 'Hellblazer' but he is also steadily making a name for himself with his tales of Felix Castor, a down on his luck exorcist working in a London that is experiencing steadily increasing supernatural activity. Felix used to be good at what he did until the day he asked himself, "Where do ghosts go once I've exorcised them?"
Most of us have little difficulty keeping our work life separate from our personal life, not so with Felix Castor. A murder case, the suicide of an old acquaintance and a friend's incarceration in a mental institute suddenly link together in a way that means people are trying to kill Felix in a variety of unpleasant ways. Felix wants answers but, as usual, he must deal with an ever increasing number of questions…
We are three books into a six book series; Carey has laid all the groundwork and is now free to concentrate on giving the reader a hard boiled 'supernatural noir' tale of gangsters, demons and an exorcist who has to be a detective as well. I think Carey succeeds on all counts, the mean streets of ‘Old London Town’ have never seemed meaner and more chilling. Without giving too much away, the scene where Felix finds himself in a room full of cats had my heart in my mouth and me scrambling to read more and find out what happened next! Carey does an amazing job with his characterisation, showing us everyday people who are flawed to the point of terminal weakness but who will still find that last little bit of decency and do the right thing. Even the demons and ghosts seem to have their good points although one particular demon is reassuringly demonic; I hope we see more of him in the future. When you couple this with a bleak London backdrop, you are left with a book that is an evocative read and won’t let go after you’ve done. Carey seems to be aware of the fact that he’s set himself a six book limit and is now starting to drop interesting hints about what we can expect to see in the future. Mention of the demon’s ‘Great Project’ and its link to the dead rising is particularly intriguing and I’m eager to see how this pans out.
My only quibble is that one of Castor’s demonic allies frequently teeters on the edge of being deus ex machine, it’s only the ending that lets him off the hook.
If you’ve already read the first two books then I guarantee you’re going to absolutely love this one. If you haven’t then I suggest you pick up ‘The Devil You Know’ and get reading. You won’t regret it.
Nine and a Half out of Ten