The Devil You Know, by Mike Carey, follows the first-person perspective adventures of exorcist Felix Castor. Felix—Fix to his friends—hasn’t been doing his job lately. After a botched exorcism on his best friend Rafi leaves Rafi intertwined with a demon, Fix looses the will to do what he was born to do. But when his dear friend and landlady Pen needs some rent money badly, Fix reluctantly takes on a job—a job that turns out to be much more than a simple ghost.
The worldbuilding is done well, woven into the narrative, never too much at once but always building your understanding of the world Fix inhabits. The dead have risen in sufficient numbers that people can’t just ignore them anymore so there’s plenty of work for the few people with the talent to be exorcists. Besides your garden variety ghosts, there’s zombies—where a dead person re-inhabits their dead body—and loup-garou—where a ghost inhabits an animal and reshapes its flesh into their lost human image.
More than the larger world, though, is the world of the Bonnington Archive, the primary set piece of the book and the place the ghost Fix has been hired to exorcise is haunting. You get a real feel for the place, the lost grandeur of what was once a beautiful building, now converted into sparse utilitarian rooms. And the characters who inhabit the Archive and bring it to life.
There’s the gang from the Bonnington—odd Mr. Peele who doesn’t like to look anyone the eyes (I can relate), strict and disbelieving Alice, easy-going Rich, sweet and mischievous Cheryl, and cagey and secretive Jon. And of course, there’s the ghost, whom Cheryl calls Sylvie, the top of whose face is obscured by a red veil—or something that looks like a red veil.
There’s also the bad guys—savvy pimp Damjohn and all his flunkies, one of whom is a loup-garou. And then there’s Rafi and Asmodeus, the demon who inhabits and traps him. Asmodeus, at least for this book, falls into a grey area—he needs Fix alive to set him free, so he gives Fix some advise on staying alive.
Then there’s Fix himself. Fix is a good narrator, mostly observant and knowledgeable about London in general if not the Bonnington in specific. He’s got metaphorical demons from his past (as opposed to Asmodeus), a chip on his shoulder, and moral lines he won’t cross—not many, but they’re there. He lies easily to himself and to others, but cares deeply about his friends.
The plot had twists and turns, and while I saw part of the ending coming, it was only close to the end, and was still satisfying. I didn’t see the last scene coming though, which was nice—a bit of a stinger, but not in a bad way, and a great setup for the next book, which I look forward to.
I enjoyed reading The Devil You Know, even if my depression meant that it was slow going. It’s a dark book, but fun.