Monday, January 14, 2008

Dead Men's Boots

Three novels in and Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series is proving to be a must read for fans of supernatural thrillers.

The story starts off at the funeral for John Gittings, a professional associate of Felix – Fix – Castor who made a brief appearance in the first book. Gittings was on a difficult case and had sought Fix’s help, but Castor didn’t have a lot of respect for the recently departed and had been avoiding him. He just wouldn’t answer his calls. Gittings solved the impasse by locking himself in his bathroom and blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Motivated by more than a little guilt, Castor agrees to help Gittings’ widow wrap up his affairs and to look into the last case. He’s just getting his bearings when a woman approaches him with another case. Her husband is in prison for a brutal rape and murder, but she’s convinced he is responsible – he was possessed by the ghost of a long dead American serial killer. Naturally the cases are related.

This novel introduces some tantalizingly obscure hints about the underlying mythos of the series. Unlike a lot of writers Carey has been very coy about sharing many of the premises underlying his stories. We still don’t know why the dead have returned en masse. To be fair, the characters in the book don’t either. Or, rather, the human characters don’t know. A new demon enters the story and references are made to a “great project” and the borders of Hell shifting. We do learn that the denizens of Hell refer to the human realm as Reth Adama (crown of Adam? realm of Adam? I have no idea). Carey is also working to move his hero away from his supporting cast. Pen is still angry with him for the events in the last novel (nominally his landlady, she’s kicked him out), Nick is as paranoid as ever and blames him for two recent attacks, and Juliet… Well, Juliet plays her biggest role to date in this novel. I wasn’t sure how she’d work out when, in what amounted to an epilogue in the first book, she decided to turn her back on Hell and become an apprentice to Fix. In this book they partner up, but her demonic origins come between them as an unexpected source of conflict.

There are two more projected books, with the fourth coming this summer and Castor has moved into the role of detective in all but name, which is exactly what I want in this hybrid genre. If you enjoy a good mystery with a unique twist, you’ll enjoy these books.

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