As it turns out Mike Carey, best known for his work on comic books like X-Men and Fantastic Four, is a helluva writer too. His Felix Castor series is flat out brilliant. Having just finished the second book, Vicious Circle, I can now say I am an official fan.
The London Felix Castor inhabits is completely recognizable as the city well known to most from travel and/or literature. The same politicians are in the news, the same motorways cross the city, and the local pubs still have much needed whiskey. There is one notable difference- there is a lot of gray between living and dead.
Since his childhood, Castor has been able to see ghosts. He eventually realized he could make them disappear, exorcise them, buy playing a tune that fits their personality. After years of eeking out a living using his talent however he could, he began to struggle with the question of what became of the ghosts he sent away. Around the same time, the very end of the last century, strange things start to happen.
Remember our crazy late 1990s? The dotcom bubble ballooning and busting. Y2K fears. Anticipation for 2000. Well, in the world Carey has created something else happened then. The dead did not always stay dead. Ghosts of people who had died in the last couple decades began to appear all over (none before that time period though), some dead and buried came back as zombies (not “I want to eat your brains” kind) and, of course, shapeshifters pop up here and there (definitely not sexy True Blood types). They are all out in the open, known to everyday citizens and law enforcement. Politicians even debate the legal rights of the undead. Kind of makes those people who stocked up on water and canned goods with generators seem pretty tame, right?
Such a shift creates a business opportunity for Castor. He becomes a freelance exorcist. For the most part, he acts as a supernatural detective. Sometimes he consults for the police. It makes for some interesting cases.
Vicious Circle begins when two grieving parents contact Castor to find their missing daughter… or rather, her ghost. At the same time, his friend Juliet, a somewhat reformed demon he helped in The Devil You Know, draws him into her investigation of a seemingly possessed church. A rash of extraordinary, in the truest sense, crimes forces Castor to realize his inquires have much greater implications than satisfied clients. All of London hangs in the balance as he is thrown into the world of Satanists and a spiritual special forces branch of the Vatican, now excommunicated, on a holy mission to keep the earth safe.
The premise might sound like the plot of a comic, I know. The genius of Carey’s writing is that it reads as anything but. The Castor novels are urban fantasy noir. Sam Spade if he could communicate with ghosts. Told in first person narrative, Castor’s acerbic wit and wry observations draw you into the tale.
The books start out at such a pace, I think that there is no way Carey will be able to write for another 350 pages and keep it interesting- but he does. His plotting puts him right up there with the best mystery or thriller writers today. If you like paranormal mysteries or urban fantasy, you will love this series. If you like mysteries or just clever or unusual characters, give this one a try.