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Vicious Circle    by Mike Carey order for
Vicious Circle
by Mike Carey
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Vicious Circle is the second book in a series by Mike Carey about an exorcist named Felix Castor. Castor's nickname is Fix, which is ironic, since he tries hard to fix things for people, some of whom are dead. Carey's writing style is no less complex than his plots, with delightful wordplay and strange other-worldly characters interacting with Castor, sometimes trying to help, sometimes trying to harm, and sometimes trying to eat him. The action takes place in a London that's overrun with ghosts, werewolves and zombies and a Parliament that is considering passing a law giving rights to the dead. One of Castor's best friends is a zombie, Nick, and another of his friends apparently tried to eat him in the earlier novel. He calls her his succubus, and Juliet is so beautiful that men and even straight women fall all over themselves around her, unable to resist her physical charms.

Although the author probably wouldn't appreciate the association, the book made me think of the Harry Potter novels. Harry Potter can be downright frightening at times, as Vicious Circle is, but the major difference between those books and Carey's would have to be that Carey's are definitely books for adults. There's bad language, sexual allusions, and a more graphic level of violence in Vicious Circle than in any of the Potter books. There is also, though, a really bad demon, Asmodeus, that wants to be released into the world, and some bad guys who are trying to help it, as well as some bad guys who are trying to hinder it. Keeping everyone straight takes some doing.

The writing is frequently funny, both in Castor's repartee when he's caught in a tight situation and in the description. When he encounters another exorcist who is a stranger, he introduces him this way: '(A) face I didn't know appeared in the gap. It was a face you couldn't do much about, like it or not, except maybe commiserate with the owner. It was pale and flat and had the slight grayness of unbaked dough. The messiest tangle of spiky light-brown hair I'd ever seen stood up on top of it like couch grass on a sand dune.'

The plot revolves around Castor being hired by a couple to find their daughter, who is dead. They tell him that she has been dead for a year, but her ghost has been living with them. Now someone has broken into their house, roughed them up, and stole her. We're told about a couple of other cases he's working on, one for the police, and one involving a friend of his who has been taken over by a demon, and we're off and running, never quite sure where. The plot twists and turns right along with Castor, who is as confused about what's going on as we are until fairly late in the book.

What makes the book absolutely engrossing is that Castor seems like a really good guy and he's trying so hard to help - someone. It does take him a while to sort out which someone. His friends are interesting creatures, especially the succubus and the zombie, and Castor keeps us entertained by getting himself into and out of dire situations. It was hard to put the book down, as the plot just kept getting more and more complicated and hopeless. All in all, reading it was a lot of fun.

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