Mar. 26th, 2009

purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (books)
I read the first Felix Castor novel some time ago, and it was the first Urban Fantasy Detective Novel I'd come across which made it seem refreshingly different. Now, of course, I realise there is a whole genre of Urban Fantasy Detective fiction out there. In the light of which, I was curious to see if Vicious Circle by Mike Carey (the second novel) stood up as well as the first had done.

Mostly it stood up pretty well. The concept is that ghosts, and the undead in general, have suddenly started appearing in much greater numbers. Felix Castor is an exorcist who fights crime (somewhat against his will). The plot for Vicious Circle is much more firmly related to the fantastical elements of the background than the first novel was. In The Devil You Know, the story was grounded out in the realities of human trafficking while Vicious Circle is all about Demons and Satanists. I'm not sure it entirely benefitted from the more fantastical twist since it moved the novel more towards a kind of toned down horror (which I'm less interested in reading about) and away from the urban detective genre (which I like).

Felix Castor, himself, is clearly modelled in the tradition of Marlowe. I'm inclined to think he's a lot more likable than the novel appears to think he is - but I often have this problem with novels. When a character does something unpleasant because they see no other way out of the situation and, indeed, no other character suggests an alternative way out of the situation, them I'm inclined to feel sorry for them rather than outraged at their behaviour. Felix is also a bit dumb on a couple of occasions. The story does, at least, acknowledge that he is being dumb and offers some explanation for it, but it does feel a little clumsy, as if the only way Carey could manage to keep the plot ticking over, in the central third, was to have Felix lagging behind the reader's awareness of events. In fairness, on one occasion, the reader inescapably jumps ahead of Felix on the grounds that characters mentioned in passing are almost bound to turn out to have significance later on. That's not stupidity on his part, but it is still a little clumsy that the reader can see what's coming while the protagonist can not.

All that said, I enjoyed the detecting aspects of the story, thought the central idea interesting and quite clever, and liked Felix enough as a character to forgive him his moments of idiocy. The plot, itself, hangs together pretty well and the world-building is nicely consistent. I wouldn't recommend the book wholeheartedly, but if you fancy some urban fantasy with a Chandler-esque vibe, then you could do worse than these novels.

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