Published on December 5th, 2012 | by Michaela Buckley0
The Devil You Know – Mike Carey
There’s a great little charity shop near my workplace where I buy nearly all of my books, it has a long wall lined with bookcases and there’s always a good read to find in there, and when I can’t see an obvious book to buy, it’s usually time to start reassessing the selection. That’s how I’ve found some interesting and unknown books. The Devil You Know is one such book, I picked it up as I saw the sequel book near it and I do so love uniformity between books. The blurb said something about a Freelance Exorcist and that was pretty much enough to make me buy it, that and the other book by Mike Carey was signed, so it felt like it was a rare item that I should probably grab quick.
By “Freelance Exorcist” that basically means “ghostbuster” and the parallel is referenced amusingly a few times in the book. Protagonist Felix Castor has retired from his self-employed paranormal job after an accident using his gift and is now living destitute in a crumbly old house in London with longtime friend and landlord “Pen”. After a failed job at a children’s Birthday party, he finds that he must resort to his old ghostbusting ways if he wants to pay his rent and save the building from being taken by the bailiffs.
Lo and behold, t’is another first person perspective book, however the noir-esque theme more than justifies this expense, with Castor being the hardened vet of extinguishing spirits and other ghostly vessels this time with no sidekick – but the landlord fills in as the quirky “Voice of Reason”, in normal noir this is the same character that usually saves the protagonist from himself when he drinks too much or over indulges, but contrastly this book has opted not to go for material strife, which works to its advantage – as it is an overused gimmick, lacking in imgination and more often that not, robs the chance of writing in a unique trait/anecdote, giving a richer depth to the character, this novel does exactly that and is a refreshing antidote to its cheesier peers.
The setting and location are some of the main attractions here, although not seen, there is an abundance of paranormal activity in this version of England. Ghosts can possess animals and use their bodies to lead seemingly normal lives as “Loup-Garou” or Were-people, these can be any animals and this affects how they look and act and so forth, there are also undead people wandering around with protesting rights groups to boot. There seems to have been some kind of an event which meant that the previously laxed spirit realm got up and decided to get involved. By the sounds of it there is a lot of members of the public who like to pretend that they don’t exist and think that Exorcists of both the church and otherwise are just scam artists. Much like in Ghostbusters.
Unlike Ghostbusters however this is only a lone man, acting more detective than run and gun buster crew. Also being set in London and written by the English Mike Carey, it rubs off as more Sherlock Holmes minus a Watson, strangely enough. Carey previously worked on Hellblazer and lots of other comics, so dialogue and setups are very visual in the novel, however somewhat controversially, the main character is barely described and we aren’t led much to believe him as a heroic man, in ways he is very much a coward, albeit a knowledgeable one who despite his downfalls, continues with his very dangerous job.
There are some great action scenes in the book, which are very difficult to pull off, however the pacing is perfect and the illustrious language manages to create some vivid segments that you can’t help but imagine how great a film of this would be. One of the other reasons I picked up this book was because the writer of Altered Carbon, Richard Morgan said (it) “Grabs you from the first out-of-nowhere nasty surprise and rarely lets go hereafter. You’ll be up all night finishing this one”. Morgan is also really great at action sequencing in his books so I can see where this praise comes from.
Sex – there’s really not a lot of it in this book, which struck me as kind of odd, it didn’t particularly feel missed out, but I could definitely see where there could have been some added in. As a gritty, paranormal detective with a grudge, I guess I just expected him to be a slightly aggressive sex addict. God knows every other book aimed at this demographic likes its dirties right out in the open. I spend a lot of my reading time travelling in public places or at my work desk during lunchbreak, so I suppose it’s a relief not to feel like I have to push myself into a corner with this book. Mind, what with the recent female explosion of interest in “Mummy porn”, nobody seems to be paying much attention to what I’m reading.
I like the characters in this book, especially Castor’s paranoid zombie friend Nicky. He’s really got the suspicious recluse thing down and it makes for some great borderline comedy scenes. The book isn’t without humour, where employed I laughed out loud, but it is few and far between and it could do with more of it, maybe the addition of a character to bounce off would be good, as currently Felix Castor only seems to make amusing quips to himself.
Obviously I already own the sequel to this- called Vicious Circle – so I know that it continues, but I’ll mention the openness of the ending regardless. It’s not left a cliffhanger, but there is a definite addition to the plot which would make the next part of the series really great if done right.
Overall a great book and a supremely lucky find, I hope the sequel manages to expand more on the character of Castor and the paranormal beings, there aren’t any glaring faults and it’s a fast paced book that doesn’t let up on the fun. Go out there and find a copy!
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