by Mike Carey
Review by Drew Bittner
Grand Central Publishing Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780446580311
Date: 28 July 2008 List Price $24.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Called in to find a missing ghost, Castor's investigation turns up a sinister cult, intent on raising the most powerful of demons (which can't be good), as well as what seems the miraculous "de-possession" of his best friend Rafi.
It can't be a coincidence, can it...? Not when Castor's involved.
If you only know Mike Carey from his unusually diverse comic book writing, you'd already know he's great. He works in genres from horror (Lucifer, Hellblazer)to slice-of-life storytelling (Confessions of a Blabbermouth) to mainstream superheroics (X-Men: Legacy, Ultimate Fantastic Four).
But if that is all you know about Mike Carey, then you're missing some of his very best stuff: his novels.
In Vicious Circle, freelance exorcist Felix "Fix" Castor is hired by a pleasant couple to find their daughter's ghost. Seems she's gone missing and the parents want her back. But the more Fix digs into this case, the more things don't add up.
Fix is also called in to consult by his friend, Detective Sgt. Gary Coldwood, but things go awry here as well. A detective figures him for the chief suspect in a rash of murders, all with a supernatural bent, which means Fix's consulting business is finished. Ah well, that leaves him free to focus on the missing ghost case, right?
One element that brings Fix both hope and confusion is the sudden recovery of his friend, Rafi Ditko, whose soul is tangled up with Asmodeus (yes, THAT Asmodeus). Rafi is finally lucid and seemingly free of his long nightmare; trouble is, Fix has no idea how it happened... or if there's any chance it will last.
Rafi's lucidity helps in a different way, though, when Fix and Pen (Fix and Rafi's best friend and Fix's landlady) struggle to keep him out of the hands of Jenna-Jane Mulbridge, an academic with a slash-and-burn approach to investigating the supernatural. Of course, there's also a psychotic named Dennis Peace, the spirit world and Fate itself aligned against him.
Vicious Circle enlarges and deepens Fix's world, bringing back supporting characters such as Juliet (aka Ajulutsikael), a succubus and apprentice exorcist; undead information broker Nicky Heath; Pen and Rafi; and Gary Coldwood. However, the cast expands greatly with the arrival of folks like Imelda Probert (aka, the Ice-Maker, friend of the undead); Abbie Torrington, a dead girl; Peckham Steiner, half-mad godfather of the new wave of exorcists; and Anton Fanke, a Satanist from the United States.
The mystery is a complex one, unraveled only in bits and pieces. Carey plays fair with his readers; there are plenty of clues spread throughout the book, such that readers have a fair chance of keeping up with Fix as he puts it all together... but the solutions are not simple ones, so be warned.
Carey has many strengths as a writer, and he puts them all to excellent use in this second novel. He is strong on characterization (Fix is a bit of a smart aleck but it's not grating or gratuitous, as it seems with so many occult PIs of recent vintage), dialogue, plot (there are LOTS of twists and turns) and settting (London really comes alive in his descriptions, and his scenes inside a haunted church are especially vivid). Readers who enjoy truly superb urban fantasy should check out Vicious Circle and the previous, The Devil You Know. You won't be disappointed.
Hmmm. Have you tried Kate Griffin's A Madness of Angels and The Midnight Mayor? There's also a third, which is out soon, I think. [NOTE: The Minority Council.] I enjoyed the first one a lot (haven't read the seoncd yet). They are set in London and have lots of magic and weirdness.