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Having never heard of the author, Mike Carey, I picked this book up on a whim. Reading the little blurb on the back it sounded appealing. Apparently this is the fourth book in the series, but still I kept up with the storyline.
The main guy is a man called Felix Castor, who by the way is an excorcist. Immediately my mind goes to those exorcists in the films, but Felix is nothing like that. And get this, he excorcises (if thats a word) people using music, or more precisely, a tin whistle. In that sense alone this book is unique. You come across other excorcists in this book, and they all have their own unique way of excorcising demons. One women uses string, another man has a pen and paper and so on.
The story opens with Felix, a female demon and another man on their way to a mental institution. One of Felix's friends Rafael is there, and inside him is a demon Asmodeus. They manage to get Rafael out, and take him somewhere else. The story then moves on, with Felix getting drawn into something new. A man was found with cuts all over him and was now in intensive unit. The car he was found in had F Castor written in blood. So drumrolls...Felix becomes a suspect.
There is alot more to the story obviously but I have no intention of spoiling it for you. As it's not the first in series, I thought I'd have trouble keeping up with the book, but it was not a problem at all. I did feel it drag abit, but the end kept me on edge.
Mike Carey is not a name I'd come across before, but on hearing he'd written the book that the film ''Constantine'' was based on, I was certainly interested in his work. ''Thicker Than Water'' is the fourth in his series involving Felix Castor and whilst that gave me slight pause about coming in to an already well established series, my desire to check out Carey's work outweighed any concerns I had.
Felix Castor is an exorcist, attempting to fight the demons, werewolves and zombies that inhabit our world. Not all of them, as his closest friend has a demon living inside him whilst his friends Nicky and Juliet are a zombie and succubus. Mostly, he lets such things be, but if they cause trouble he takes it upon himself to remove them from the world and let us mere humans live in peace.
This time around, Castor is implicated in a murder when a childhood friend is found with his throat cut and Felix's name written in his blood on the windscreen. Felix is sure this is a cry for help, not an implication, as the victim knew that he was an exorcist. To prove this, Castor needs to locate the demon the victim was pointing him to an exorcise it. However, the demon is a big one, with a hold on an entire London housing estate that causes those it touches to wound either themselves or others.
I loved the idea behind the story and the further I got into it, I loved the execution of the tale. The idea of having a modern world inhabited by evil beings is not a new one, but Carey moulds the worlds together so expertly that it's difficult to see the join. Carey makes the whole idea seem so plausible that I found myself looking at people in the street and wondering if they were all they appeared to be.
Carey's eye for the pacing of a story is excellent, especially when he mixes Castor's past and present. Although given that Carey has written films and stories that became films, this wasn't a huge surprise. He starts slowly, before building up to a frantic finale, but never loses sight of the fact that life does slow down and veer off on a tangent sometimes. Carey is a master at pointing the way towards something and building up the suspense, before allowing something else to happen that leaves both characters and readers frustrated that the end feels at once so close and so far away.
Carey's other great trick is that he's got a twisted sense of humour that means he wants to keep people guessing. The whole story was packed with unexpected twists and turns, but the end in particular had so many false finishes and revelations that I almost felt dizzy by the end. He has a wonderful knack of leading characters and readers to the answer one step at a time, but does so by pointing out landmarks that distract them from the journey.
Carey's sense of humour also leaches into the characters, which makes the whole thing a bit more enjoyable. A lot of the characters often snipe at each other and throw insults around. It's rarely enough to have the reader rolling around laughing, but it certainly raises a frequent smile and the opening couple of paragraphs in the second chapter were hilarious, unexpectedly so at that point.
The other aspect of ''Thicker Than Water'' that I enjoyed was that, unusually for a book so far into a series, it wasn't necessary to have read the previous ones to get full enjoyment from it. There were occasional references to previous events that may have been in earlier books, but these were mostly used to establish relationships and as a way for one character to persuade another to do something. Such mentions piqued my interest towards Carey's earlier work, but I didn't feel that they got in the way and rarely did I feel as if I was missing something important that could relate to this story.
If there is a slight downside to the story, it's that the characters aren't terribly well drawn. As personalities they are well done, but the physical descriptions lack detail, leaving a largely blurred outline. This may be a deliberate attempt to leave the characters blurred in case it becomes a film or because it's been covered earlier in the series, but I do like to get a feel for people. Given that many characters supposedly on the side of "good" have very dark motivations, it can get a little tough to know which faction they belong to, be it Castor's group, the police or Father Gwillam's team.
This minor quibble aside, and it is an easy one to push aside, this was a great read. The idea may have been touched upon before, but Carey uses it with such a sense of pace and style that it's impossible not to find something here to enjoy. Anyone with even the slightest penchant for supernatural stories is going to like Carey's work and even those who tend to prefer more earthly thrillers will happily take a diversion into Felix Castor's world. I'm sure there is more to come from Mike Carey and Felix Castor and I'm equally sure that I would love to be around when it happens and with this book being available from as little as 99 pence from eBay, this book is as good a place as any to get started.
This is a slightly amended version of a review previously published under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk