Title: Vicious Circle by Mike Carey
Published: Oct 2006
Mike Carey is more widely known as a comic book writer – and for exploring the area of the occult in the comics Lucifer and Hellblazer (both available from DC Comics) He also writes about superheroes. He’s somehow found time to write a series of novels starting with The Devil You Know. Vicious Circle is the follow-up to that and takes us through another case of the exorcist Felix Castor.
Mike takes us to a London where the dead are no longer staying in the shadows. They are rising in great numbers and there is even an Act going through Parliament aimed at giving the dead legal status.
With this backdrop Castor takes on a request from the parents of a kidnapped girl. There is only one problem – she’s dead and ghosts can’t just be picked up and pocketed. Not that stops Castor taking on the case – the mystery and the grief of the parents persuades him – though the money may help too.
Mike does plot very well. The story is focused and well planned. The other thing he’s good at is hiding the twists and turns until the several ‘d’oh’ moments that occur. Everything moves along at a page-turning pace.
What is frustrating is the need to supply plot seems to leave Felix and the other characters getting less development time than they deserve, because Carey paints them so well you do want to spend more time with them. But as this is a first person tale there are perfectly good reasons why our focus can’t shift to the secondary characters too much. The only way would be to have Felix in their presence but being with them too long might give stuff away before everything is fully set-up.
Instead, you get to see him out and about, ducking and diving, exploring the seedy world that attracts his services. So you don’t notice this lack of progress until the conclusion, which itself makes you wish you knew Castor a little more.
Throughout the book Felix remains a bit of a mystery – but that’s how it should be. As is the way with all detectives – you see enough of their home life to make them human but not enough to shift the focus away from whatever they happen to be investigating.
Even though it’s not mentioned in the cover VC has all the markings of the second book of a trilogy. Character and storylines started in the first book play an important part here and the anticipation is that they will feature in the next one as well.
Whole heartedly recommended but read The Devl You Know first.