"Vicious Circle" is a wonderfully entertaining, fantasy thriller a la noir. The novel abounds with otherworldly creatures - demons, ghosts, zombies, a succubus, lycanthropes, (loup-garous). and one of the Devil's highest ranking minions. What makes the novel really unique, however, is the humor. Felix, ("Fix"), Castor is one of the wittiest protagonists I have come across in a long while. And many of Mike Carey's other characters are real originals. Some of the dialogue made me laugh out loud while shaking in my proverbial boots.
Castor is a hard-boiled but very sympathetic freelance exorcist/ghostbuster. London is his stomping ground. His business card reads "F. Castor Eradications." Fix, as his friends call him, is down on his luck and owes his landlady back rent - nothing unusual about this. Close friend, and former landlady, PEN, aka Pamela Elisa Bruckner, lives in a three story inverted penthouse - the penthouse is underground - and the monstrosity of a house has been in her family for eons, literally. She is a Wiccan Priestess and has been Castor's buddy since college days.
The primary tool Castor uses in his trade is a whistle, a Clarke original, Key of D, ("the saddest chord"). He plays music on his tin whistle to bind and banish spirits. And naturally, he takes it everywhere. The whistle is for him what a gun is for a cop. Since the Millennium, which brought a great upsurge in supernatural activity, he has had to use his whistle and all his other exorcising accoutrements frequently
Felix accidentally wove a master demon, Asmodeus, into his friend Rafi's soul about a year ago. Rafi and his demon now reside in a facility for the violent criminally insane. And all hell breaks lose, literally, when Asmodeus takes over Rafi's mind and acts out. At the top of Felix's "to do" list is to exorcise this powerful demon and set his friend free before he is transferred to a "bottom of the line" facility. This is not an easy task, as magical textbooks put Asmodeus at the top of the "infernal pecking order," and he is burning Rafi up from the inside out!
Felix's priorities multiply when he is contacted by the parents of a missing girl. They hire him to find their daughter. There's one catch - their daughter, Abbie, is a ghost. Abbie drowned on a school trip last summer, and about three months later she "came back home," to her parents delight. If they cannot have their daughter back in the flesh, they'll take the spirit rather than lose her altogether. A few days before, a disreputable exorcist named Dennis Peace took Abbie's ghost, binding her to him, and claiming to be her real father. Abbie's parents believe that only a strong exorcist like "Fix" can go up against Peace and recover their daughter's ghost.
Eventually, Felix gets a fix on Peace, but two loup garous show up with an equal interest in the exorcist kidnapper. They bludgeon Felix and do all kinds of other nasty things to him to get him to talk, but he doesn't have the information they want. So, he is left in really bad shape - barely alive. And the case of the missing ghost becomes more complex - all kinds of twists & turns, and lots more action and violence.
Meanwhile, Felix's friend, Ajulutsikae, a powerful succubus, is trying her hand at exorcism - one can never have too many skills. Felix is allowed to call the sexual incubus "Juliet," and she keeps her powers in check for him. Although she does drive him crazy with lust, he is able to control himself when in her company. Juliet is investigating a haunted church. Another one of Hell's minions has woven itself into the fabric of the church. Resolving this dilemma and saving the congregation proves to be too complex a task for Juliet's novice capabilities - so she calls upon Felix for help. One could say his whistle is being put to good use.
This is no predictable paranormal mystery. The mystery(s) is extremely difficult to solve and the villains are almost too powerful to defeat. A sinister, shadowy air permeates the novel. Carey's exotic characters, the human and not so human, are wonderfully conceived and at times outrageous. Carey's descriptions are very creative and often funny - which provide a break from all the heavy stuff. However, too much extraneous information and way too much graphic violence kept me from rating "Vicious Circle" 5 Stars. The book needs a bit more editing and toning down.
"Vicious Circle" is the second in the Felix Castor series. Although this series is Mike Carey's first foray into fiction, he is a highly successful comic book writer who created the critically acclaimed Vertigo series Lucifer, which garnered numerous international awards and was nominated for five Eisners. I can't wait to read book 3, "Dead Men's Boots.
The Devil You Know
Dead Men's Boots
Thicker Than Water: A Felix Castor Novel (Felix Castor Novel 4)