Felix Castor, known as Fix, is a London lay exorcist, currently self-employed. If you think that ‘lay’ and ‘exorcist’ constitute an oxymoron, think again. Felix hasn’t been to church since he was 6; still he firmly believes in Heavens, Hell, and all the spiritual beings inhabiting those places; he can not only see them, but also summon them, bind them and make them disappear using just a small, innocent tin whistle (Clarke’s Original, key of D). It’s his natural talent he turned into a profession – he experiences ghosts, demons and zombies as tunes. If he tangles a ghost in a tune he plays, he can control it. That’s the theory anyway. The practice can be terminally boring or extremely dangerous and it can change every moment or so.
At the beginning of the book Fix is called to a grisly murder scene – a young prostitute called Ginny Parris was killed in her own flat. The ferocity of the murder screams ‘supernatural’ at once – the cops think a loup-garou might be the perpetrator. When Castor tries to summon Ginny’s ghost he finds out the dead girl’s soul was mutilated even worse than her body – it was literally torn into pieces and eaten, apparently by a demon called Asmodeus. That’s how things start getting personal for him.
Asmodeus is a powerful demon and an old acquaintance. In previous installments he had possessed the body of Felix’s friend, Rafi Ditko, and broke loose from his temporary, silver-lined prison. Now Asmodeus/Rafi is killing all people that have ever been close to the poor victim, starting with that prostitute, one of many Rafi’s former girlfriends. Felix feels responsible for the fate of his friend as he was the one who, not being able to banish the demon, bound Asmodeus to the human host and made him stay in London. Now he wants to make amends to his friend – release Rafi from the clutches of Asmodeus without killing him in the process and send the demon where it belongs – straight to Hell. It is an ambitious goal. Will he be able to perform a banishing on his own, something he failed the first time? How many people will be killed before that?
I jumped straight at the end of a series and I admit it was a cushioned landing – I felt immediately at home. The narration – first person limited – was peppered with infodumps but as most of them they were interesting infodumps I didn’t mind. They might have been bothersome for somebody familiar with the series but in my case they simply allowed me to find my bearings.
The novel is set in a paranormally-enhanced, contemporary London. Yes, zombies, demons, werewolves, ghosts and poltergeists are finally out of their closets and even the police acknowledge them. It suited me perfectly because that city, with the layers and layers of history overlapping each other, is simply created for any paranormal setting. The world building, although with Roman Catholic slant, was original with an emphasis on demons, ghosts and zombies, with some loup-garou in the background. It reminded me of that old movie Constantine and then I found out for a very good reason – Constantine was an adaptation of Hellblazer, another Carey’s novel. The style is indeed recognizable.
Still I encountered a bunch of problems or rather one major problem called the main character and his less-than-stellar attitude towards women. Honestly Felix, would it hurt to be less of a jerk? Somehow it happens that all female characters, presented in the book, are either his sworn enemies or at least people he slightly despises. Agreed, there is Juliet Salazar, his female friend he actually loves to interact with but she is a succubus tamed by Felix and, as such, she is incredibly exciting to be around (if you don’t have an idea what I mean let me inform you that a succubus is a kind of female demonic entity for which sex is a major weapon and a tool of trade; basically it seduces men and then devours them, body and soul). Other than that Felix has to prove constantly his domination over every female and male at sight by feeling superior, trading nasty comments and swearing a lot. Sounds a bit immature for a guy who has to face death on daily basis. Ok, I admit it: there are some scenes when our main lead rises over petty squabbles and acts the adult man he is supposed to be but you can count them on one hand, they are like tiny islands scattered over a big, vast sea of jerkishness. I really hardly believed that the novel ended as it ended, with Felix finding a kind of steady company, almost a relationship, perish the thought (not telling you with who or what in order not to spoil). He is a man I would love to avoid in real life.
At the end my last carping: the world building, although undoubtedly interesting and original, was also somehow one-sided. I mean if there are demons and ghosts, poltergeists and loup-garous, big, bad and scary, then there should be also angels, right? Or any angents of light, no matter their form and name, just for the sake of the balance. Unfortunately not one single angel helped Felix during his investigation or appeared anywhere in the book and I wonder why. After all it was a fight against evil, right?
It is undoubtedly a nice series which has a lot of fans but also one I started and finished with the last book – and I felt it was quite enough. No, I don’t want to read the previous installments, not with Felix Castor being their main lead. I was told what had happened anyway ;p. The cover is a complete meh btw.