Book Review: The Devil You Know (Felix Castor) by Mike Carey
In the near future London, supernatural creatures, particularly ghosts, zombies, and demons, have suddenly shown themselves. Naturally the religious find this to be a sign of the coming apocalypse, but most people take it all in good stride. Some even discover that they have exorcism abilities. Felix Castor is one of these people. A staunch atheist, he works for hire, rather like a private detective in a Raymond Chandler novel. He takes a case of a haunting in an archive, but gets more than what he bargained for in the form of an overly-interested pimp, a succubus, and a competing exorcist who oddly bound the ghost so she can’t speak in lieu of sending her off to the after-life. Although his employers just want him to exorcise the ghost and be done with it, Castor refuses to do so until he discovers just what exactly is going on…., and he just might become a ghost himself in the process.
This book held a lot of promise to me. I’m a big fan of both the old-school private detective novels and the more modern paranormal books, so I thought this would be right up my alley. It fell flat for me, though, although I think that has more to do with me than the book.
First, it contains a very British sense of humor instead of the American kind found in Chandler books. I know some people find British humor absolutely hilarious, but it always completely fails to strike my funny bone. I’d read sentences in Carey’s book and know they were supposed to be funny, but they just aren’t to me. That becomes frustrating the more times it happens in a book, and it happened a lot.
I also, frankly, didn’t like the whole archives setting. Maybe it’s that I’m in library science and know archivists personally, but it just wasn’t escapist enough for me. The extensive descriptions of the archives, reading room, and storage, and the librarians’ spaces were dull to me. I wonder if this is the case for anybody reading a book that takes place largely in a location similar to where they work? It could also just be that I find archives dull. I am a reference librarian, after all.
The mystery itself was good and kept me guessing, although I slightly suspect that part of that was due to the fact that the rules of the supernatural are unclear and so Carey has some leeway in taking unexpected turns. It was the mystery that kept me reading, though, so it was well-written.
Overall, although this book wasn’t for me, it was well-written, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys British humor, detective novels, archive settings, and the paranormal.
3 out of 5 stars