I discovered Mike Carey because I reviewed a Jim Butcher book and someone suggested I’d like the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey. I’d never heard of Mike Carey, but I was out of new authors to read at the time and I was ready to try anything that sounded good. I got what I hoped for plus a whole lot more.
Mike Carey is not merely a good writer. He is what I would term hyper-literate. He uses words like a rapier. His prose is beautifully crafted, often lyrical, yet never treacly or sappy. He is crisp.
He actually uses words I have to look up because I don’t recognize them. It has been decades since I learned a new word. Sometimes I don’t know the word because it’s British slang with which I’m just not familiar, but sometimes, it’s a word I’ve never seen before.
He does not repeat himself. He never uses the same descriptive passage more than once, nor does he — as many popular authors do — copy and paste sections from one book to another to (I presume) save writing time. Mike Carey doesn’t use short cuts.
The result is a style that is richly descriptive, a delicious combination of gritty street slang banging head-on into literary English. Guttersnipe meets Jane Austen in the streets of Liverpool. It gives the narrative a rare and rich texture.
What’s it all about? Felix (Fix) Castor is an exorcist. He sees the dead and the undead. They see him. He is no wizard who magics his problems away with the wave of a hand or wand. He can send the dead away when they linger and cast out demons who possess humans.
Where do the dead go after he sends them away? He’s not sure, an issue that looms successively larger as the series progresses. His weapon is music in the form of a tin whistle, a thin armament in the face of some of the perils he faces. He has a few allies — human, formerly human plus one demon in recovery.
The series consists of five books, each building on the previous one to form what is essentially a single story in five parts. Best to read the series in order. All the books are now available on paperback, for Kindle and as an Audible download.
In order, the books are:
The Devil You Know
Dead Men’s Boots
Thicker Than Water
The Naming of Beasts.
None of the books are exactly a lightweight romp through a sunny meadow, but the first three books are much lighter in tone … and funnier — Carey has a sharp, ironic sense of humor– than the final two, which are pretty intense.
Fix Castor works hard for short money, is rarely appreciated by the people he helps, has more than enough of his personal demons, not to mention some very real, otherworldly demons who are seriously out to get him.
It’s a unique series, unlike any other I’ve read. I wish there had been more of them, though I suspect the author is done with this series.
There are so many surprises in these book. The characters constantly surprised me by growing and changing, developing in unexpected ways and not doing the obvious. Characters make unique choices and don’t take the obvious or easy way out.
Mike Carey can be very funny. His subtle and elegant humor contains no belly laughs, but irony pervades his prose. None of the books are traditionally funny nor are the situations humorous or light-hearted, but the author’s writing style is wonderfully cynical. The stories, pun intended, are dead serious. Darkness notwithstanding, you can count on Mike Carey’s plays on words and twists of phrase to keep the dread from becoming too heavy to handle.
The plots are gripping and creepy. Any or all of the books would make great horror movies. I’m surprised no one has grabbed them yet. Maybe they will. I hope so.
- CCI: Carey Wins an Inkpot & Teases “Frankie” on TV (comicbookresources.com)
- Mike Carey Writing New Series for Boom! (comicsbeat.com)
- Harry Dresden’s Magical Chicago (teepee12.com)
- 10 Book Series So Addictive, You Never Want Them to End (io9.com)