Thicker Than Water (Felix Castor) by Mike Carey
|Thicker Than Water (Felix Castor) by Mike Carey|
|Reviewer: Iain Wear|
|Summary: The fourth in the series works well as a stand alone novel, with an excellent story and real suspense. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 512||Date: March 2009|
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. Ticker 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 Nickey 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 and 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 on 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.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.
Another great mix of the real and the magical world can be found in Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels.
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