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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thicker Than Water. Mike Carey. Orbit Books (2009)

An highly entertaining, very well structured and very dark fantasy. Felix Castor is a freelance exorcist in an England where ghosts, werewolves, zombies and demons are part of the population. Felix is taken to a crime scene where he discovers that his name was written in blood by a victim of a very savage murder. This becomes a bigger problem when Felix reveals that he knew the victim and that he had tried to kill Felix when they were children. Under suspicion for the murder Felix has to investigate to clear himself. The trail leads to the Sailsbury estate where something very nasty indeed in brewing. The trouble on the estate had attracted the attention of a violent and militant Catholic group, The Anathemata. As Felix continues to investigate the trial leads back to his own family past in Liverpool and a web of secrets and lies. The action is fast and very well set up, the reveals are superb, the cast engaging and the story thread very cleverly knotted together. The climax is savage and fitting, no one is left unpunished.
One of the great pleasures of the book is the way Mike Carey uses his premise about the supernatural invading the world and becoming a, nearly normal, part of reality and everyday life. This accommodation lets him drive the story forward as a very noir thriller with a supernatural cast without having to break the genre conventions to do so. Felix is a great leading man, he is trying to do his best and do the right thing in a world where that has lost a great deal of meaning. He is not a superhero in any sense, he does have a strong talent which causes him as much trouble as it solves for others. He is willing and able to act, make mistakes and just ultimately do what has to be done. With a supporting cast featuring a demon who lives for sex and blood and a zombie property developer, the standard police officer who is a wary ally of Felix has to work hard not be simply be a cliche. Mike Carey gives him a genuine spark of life and the relationship between the two rings true.
The opening incident of the book appears to be a freewheeling sub plot that is woven into the main plot with a cunning ferocity that is matched only by the bitter story that lies behind the activities on the Sailsbury and the murder victim. The supernatural elements are not window dressing on a excellent noir thriller, they are woven into the fabric of the story so that they give it extra bite and severity.
This is a great read, Mike Carey is a very skillful writer who has created a gripping blend of ideas that could work against each other, in fact they combine seamlessly to add weight and texture to a cold and griping story.

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