Pros: Ghosts, demons, were-creatures, and a tin whistle.
Cons: A few spots could be cleaned up a little (extra scenes, disjointedness)
The Bottom Line: Apart for the bit of tongue lashing I gave this, it was interesting and entertaining - exactly what I needed.
Mike Carey’s The Devil You Know was right in front of me at work when I was at the Customer Service desk one day. I ended up reading the summary and finding myself rather intrigued. And when was the last time I’d read about ghosts and demons and stuff running around the streets of London? Hmm, never. Or at least, not remotely lately. Though I do find it interesting that this will be the second book with the setting placed somewhere in the Great Britain region (the other being In the Woods, in Ireland).
Anyway, the gist is that Felix Castor is an exorcist. Not “the power of Christ compels you!” kind, but rather a sort of “I see dead people” + pied piper kind. He’s been on leave for a while, but then a job comes his way he can’t say no to. And now instead of a quick ghost-cleansing of the place, he’s found there’s more to things than he thought and it could get him killed if he’s not careful.
Sounds riveting, doesn’t it? See, my problem lately seems to be that either I expect too much, or when I read titles and book blurbs, I get certain ideas into my head that I believe the book will include. Before I rant, there are plenty of good things to say about this book. Felix is a guy you’d like to chat with over drinks, and not always about ghosts either. You give two cents what happens to this guy, and you like his girl buddy, Pen, as well. Likewise, you get interested with the other characters that get involved (well, most of them).
Carey has some great ways of describing things; some that just made me chuckle and think to myself, “That was awesome.” You can see a lot of things fairly quickly – he gives you just enough description so you can make your own image without dousing you with too much detail that can hamper it. And I really enjoy what he did with the whole ghost, zombie, were-being concept. He put some twists on it I’d never thought of before and I’ve never seen either, such as how were-beings come into existence or what zombies are. Many kudos to that because by now, all that supernatural stuff has been beaten to death so much, it’s difficult to twist it into something new and original. Carey manages to do it with style. Oh, and I loved the inclusion of the succubus. High five Mike. Likewise, the method he gave Felix for removing ghosts is very intriguing, my particular favorite phrase was, in regards to where ghosts go when he’s done, “Wherever music goes when it’s not being played.”
While the book is paranormal and mystery-laden fun, there are some troubles with Carey’s delivery and a few scenes. There were a few times where Felix makes connections that I don’t understand how he made them in the first place. Did I gloss over it somehow? Or was it just never really fleshed out? How did Felix know to steal a computer? Especially when he appeared to fail to make a connection that I’d made several pages ago. As for scenes, there were a few that either seemed unnecessary or the way Carey began his chapter threw me off. They always tell us writers (as we work toward the published world) that it’s a very good idea to establish the scene ASAP; who’s there and where “there” is. At least twice I was thinking, “What the heck? Where am I? What’s going on?” at the start of chapters, and several other times a scene would occur and I was left sitting there, paused, wondering just why that had occurred. What function did that scene serve? I can think of two specific ones that have absolutely no attachment to the rest of the book.
For example, at one point Felix’s brother pops up. A.) I never knew he had a brother. He’d mentioned a sister, but never a brother. B.) the guy was there all of maybe 5-10 minutes and did nothing that I don’t think Carey could have made Felix’s friend Pen do to help. I saw no point to it, nor did I see any point to it once I’d finished the book. There were also a few times when things seemed a bit disjointed, which mostly occurs at the front when Felix has explanatory flashback moments, such as how his buddy Rafi became possessed. And I really would have liked it if he made it much clearer earlier on who was dead in a scene and who was not. I finally got annoyed at one point.
While there were plenty of paranormal things wandering around, I was slightly disappointed in the claim I’d read on the book, "But what should have been a perfectly straightforward exorcism is rapidly turning into the Who Can Kill Castor First Show, with demons and ghosts all keen to claim the big prize." Okay, that is a flat out lie. Because of that, I went into this thinking something major was going down and all sorts of crap would come out of the woodwork on their own time to try and kill him (even the warning Felix gets from Rafi made it sound like that). Instead, I can think of three separate beings making intentional attempts on his life, a demon, a human, and a were-creature. And these were few and far between – nothing like what I’d expected. Just so you’ve been warned.
Still, it kept me interested, wasn’t a waste of my time, and was fun running around London with Felix with ghosts and demons hanging around, with all sorts of British references to stuff I did or didn’t know about, and even giggled a little when a Burger King suddenly popped up. And yes, this was originally published in London because Carey is, duh, English.
Originally published on Epinions.com.