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Felix Castor is a talented exorcist living in London, with zombies, ghosts and succubi for friends, and the odd human. His best friend, Rafi, has been taken over by a demon called Asmodeus, for which Felix feels slightly responsible. As such, he needs to get Rafi back to normal - the problem is that Asmodeus has other ideas - basically to kill everyone who has anything to do with Rafi. Felix himself is probably on the list, but before he worries about himself, he needs to do something about his closest friends - namely Pen, his landlady, Juliet, a succubus (a demonic female spirit) and Sue, Juliet's lover. At the same time, there are horrible things going on in a central London gym, and Castor must do something about it before people start to die. Can he solve all his problems without losing any of his loved ones?
Supernatural thrillers are not something that I am all that familiar with - I usually prefer my thrillers to have a more realistic slant. However, I'm always willing to try new genres, and this Mike Carey book certainly seemed to fit the bill. This is the fifth book in the Felix Castor series, which did mean that I was coming into it a little late; however, I managed to pick up Castor's situation fairly easily. I think, however, I would recommend starting earlier in the series and reading the books in order if possible - there are numerous references to earlier cases and I would have liked a deeper understanding of them.
As a character, Felix Castor is strangely rather vague, and this is despite the fact that he is telling the story in the first person. Even by the end of the book, I didn't really feel that I had got to know him very well. This is perhaps deliberate; or it could simply be that the character has developed over the course of the series and by this point, the author felt that it wasn't necessary to reveal any more layers. Castor isn't a dislikeable character though and I was quite happy to follow him through his interactions with the various people and 'things' that he comes up against. I just felt that I would have liked a little more depth to him.
What I did like about the book was the other characters. All of them, even the so-called 'normal' human ones, were quirky and full of little idiosyncracies. I particularly enjoyed reading about Juliet, the succubus. She has tried to humanize herself as much as possible, having fallen in love with a human, Sue, but she still has special powers - most of all, the power to make any man crave her, including, at times, Felix. In this story, her behaviour is slightly altered by Asmodeus, making her behaviour even more random than usual. She is great fun and I really enjoyed reading about her - I'd read more books in this series just to find out more about her.
I must admit I did find the strange happenings in the book quite hard to grasp, probably just because I was new to them. The concept of wards, which prevent ghosts and demons from entering certain areas was new to me; as was the placing of stones near certain demons to change their behaviour. Then again, it did add a certain freshness to the book - I usually read crime fiction, but this is crime fiction with a real twist and I found it exciting. I also enjoyed the fact that the book is largely set in Central London, where I used to work.
I'm not completely convinced by the standard of Mike Carey's writing. I can't put my finger on it precisely, and there is certainly nothing wrong with it grammatically or vocabulary-wise, but there were times I felt the tone was patronising and a little pretentious. This could be because the author intended Castor to come across like that, I'm not sure. Nevertheless, it did bother me occasionally and I don't think I could read another Mike Carey book for a few months without finding it intensely annoying.
There is a certain amount of gore and violence for people who prefer not to read about that sort of thing. However, I didn't find it overly graphic and it is possible to skim read those sections anyway. It is undoubtedly scary at times, so probably isn't suitable for younger readers. However, it didn't really have me cowering under the covers, so for any reader used to the thriller genre, I don't think it would be a problem.
On the whole, this is a decent story with lots of inventive characters - for that alone, I will look out for other books in this series. I just haven't really got to grips with Felix Castor as the main character and spokesperson for the book. However, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think most people who enjoy crime fiction or thrillers with a supernatural twist will enjoy this book. Recommended.
The book is available from play.com for £5.99. Published by Little Brown Book Group, it has 510 pages. ISBN: 9781841496559