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Issue #134 - October/November 2006

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Dead Again

By Cheryl Morgan

Mike Carey has turned out his second Felix Castor novel very quickly. The Devil You Know was reviewed in April, and here we have Vicious Circle already. Maybe Carey had more than one book written when he made the sale. Maybe they are easy to write. One thing I have noticed already is that there is a formula.

Well OK, this is crime fiction that we are talking about here, so of course there is a formula. And there’s all of the supernatural stuff as well. Castor’s modus operandi is that, being an exorcist, he can wheedle the dead into telling him what happened to them. Very useful, if you are a detective. From there on the book proceeds like this: the police tend to be suspicious of Castor; Castor gets beaten up lots; and there are about five sub-plots going on, all of which turn out to be connected in the end. This is actually a problem, because if you know that everything in the book is going to end up being related somehow then you can see some of the plot twists coming a mile off. Carey might want to think about that.

Minor gripe aside, however, Felix Castor novels are seriously page-turning stuff. Vicious Circle lasted considerably less time than the 10 hours necessary to get from Heathrow to San Francisco. And there is plenty of fun writing along the way.

So now the music was bringing this dead man inside the perceptual orbit of Coldwood and his coppers — which meant that they were seeing Sheehan’s ghost materialize out of that proverbially popular substance, thin air. The plods gaped, and the men in white coats visibly bridled and tensed as they saw this piece of superstition and unreason made manifest before their eyes.

Of course the question you will all be asking is, is Juliet in the book? Fear not, dear reader, everyone’s favorite reformed succubus does get a number of key scenes. Carey is careful not to over-use her, which is probably just as well. She could very easily overpower the entire book. Besides, there has to be a limit to the bloodshed.

Juliet accelerated so that they’d reach her first, taking out two of them with strikes that I’d be happy to call surgical because most surgery leaves you unable to walk for a while and maybe a body part or so short.

What’s the book about? Oh, you know, the usual stuff: drug dealers, gangland murders, demonic possession, Satanic child sacrifice. The sort of stuff that only appears in the lurid imaginations of crime writers, horror writers, tabloid newspaper journalists and Christian fundamentalists. But that’s what Felix Castor novels are like. Carey did, after all, cut his writing teeth on characters such as John Constantine.

There is plenty to warm to in Carey’s work. To start with he knows London very well, even down to mentioning well known local eccentrics, or much missed landmarks such as MOMI. But most of all he is one of us. Carey is a geek at heart. He knows about MOMI because he loves movies. And because he loves movies he knows things like just how inflammable old movie film is, and what useful chemicals it might have in it. In amongst all of the stomach-churning gore and macho fisticuffs beats the heart of a science fiction writer. I suspect that Carey will be able to churn out new Castor novels on a regular basis for a few years yet, but I hope he does something different as well.

Um, as long as it has Juliet in it.

Vicious Circle - Mike Carey - Orbit - mass market paperback

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Emerald City - copyright Cheryl Morgan - cheryl@emcit.com
Masthead Art copyright Steven Stahlberg (left) and Gerhard Hoeberth (right)
Additional artwork by Frank Wu & Sue Mason
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Editorial assistants: Anne K.G. Murphy & Kevin Standlee