BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW by Mike Carey

Mike Carey writes comics for Marvel (X-Men) and DC (The Unwritten), but he’s also a novelist. He’s got a book series about a London-based ghostbuster that would comfortably fit in with Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett’s tough guy private eyes.

Felix Castor is a great character. Like many of his trench coated predecessors, Castor only acts hardened to the core and aloof. In reality he’s a fractured, damaged soul that needs close relationships. When he makes friends, he makes them for life. Unfortunately, his professional side is sometimes hard on those friends.

Carey has filled London with ghosts, and repopulated the ranks of the undead and lycanthropic with twists and variations of his own. I enjoyed the werewolf Scrub (a ghost inhabiting the body of an animal that then takes on characteristics of both) and what happens to him when Castor finally gains the upper hand against him. There are flashes of “wow” in some of the supernatural remodeling.

I like Fix (his nickname among friends) as a reluctant hero. He’s also a great wisecracker and tends to irreverence no matter what the ultimate cost to him. I couldn’t help noticing some similarities between him and John Taylor (Simon Green’s supernatural detective) as well as John Constantine (from the DC Comics Hellblazer, for whom Carey has also written). However, to give the devil his due, these kinds of characters tend to hew close to the same bone, so there’s not going to be a lot of differences.

Fix assumes control over spirits through music, which I thought was interesting. But he can’t establish control all the time. When the succubus nearly killed him, the point was driven home that Fix mixes with “forces beyond his control” on a regular basis. The initial case to get rid of a ghost turns into a murder investigation that several people want to keep covered up.

The plot is layered deftly enough that the reader has to remain aware at all times of what is going on. Everything eventually dovetails, but the journey is an interesting one, and mentally challenging.

The Bonnington Archive was an interesting place to be as well, but I would think there would be a lot more ghosts hanging around that place. The Russian spirit is plenty dangerous, though, and getting more so. However, as with most good private detective yarns, the surface mystery is only the first layer of all the secrets that lay in wait for our hero.

Carey’s supernatural underworld is pretty well thought out. He features dangerous and perverse villains that traffic in all kinds of misery and crime. The fact that these folks have a Brit background makes them more fascinating to me. London is one of those cities that I automatically fill with shadows and creepy landscapes whenever I sit down to read a tale that takes place there.

I was happy to discover that this is the first book of a series that’s had four sequels so far. I’m eager to delve back into Fix’s world to discover what’s lying in wait in London’s dark places.

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