This review was posted to the old TTA Press website back on 19 November 2007:-
DEAD MEN’S BOOTS by MIKE CAREY
(Orbit paperback, 534pp, £7.99)
This is the third Felix Castor novel, set in a world where the existence of ghosts and other supernatural beings is taken for granted and exorcists like Castor protect humanity from their schemes.
The book opens with Castor attending the funeral of John Gittings, a fellow exorcist who committed suicide, and learning from the widow that John was involved in a mysterious case just before he died. There’s also a client protesting that her husband, who committed a brutal murder, is possessed by the spirit of an American female serial killer who died more than forty years previously, something which should not be possible. Naturally the two cases are connected, leading Castor and his ally the succubus Juliet to a deadly confrontation.
This reads more like a fusion of urban fantasy and hard boiled detective than out and out horror, with the emphasis on action, though there are plenty of things to appeal to the horror fan. Carey’s slick, easy prose style carries the story forward at a ferocious pace, with a slew of wisecracks to flavour the pot. Larger than life characters, such as the sexy, gorgeous Juliet and treacherous demon Moloch, are to be found aplenty, while Castor himself is an intriguing creation, a gumshoe with something of the low life about him, an exorcist who works his magic with the aid of a tin whistle, trying hard to do the right thing and constantly misunderstood by those who don’t agree with his methods.
The plot is a nicely tangled web, packed with incident and invention, all the pieces of the main story arc slotting neatly together at the end, while a mess of stuff going on in the background hints at interesting developments, both major and minor, personal and political, waiting in the wings for Castor and his buddies. A particular pleasure are the action scenes, especially those involving the beautiful but deadly Juliet, with plenty of colour and lashings of gore, and the final battle royal is a tour de force in which the tide swings first one way and then the other, true edge of the seat stuff. There are also quieter, more reflective moments, as when Castor agonises over the fate of a friend possessed by a demon or when he has to deal with Juliet’s view that the female serial killer is as much a victim as the men she slays. Carey isn’t doing anything radically new or different here, and if more serious concerns are addressed then it’s as a sideline to the primary mission of showing the reader a good time, but he brings his own distinctive brand of gusto and quality storytelling to the material and makes it uniquely his own, with the end result a novel that is as substantial as it is entertaining.