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Bookends: What happens when the dead keep coming back November 5, 2015

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: What happens when the dead keep coming back

By Dan Davidson

May 20, 2015

– 812 words –

 

Dead Men’s BootsDead Men's Boots

by Mike Carey

Grand Central Publishing

527 pages

Kindle Edition

$6.99

 

Mike Carey has carved out a considerable career in comic books, writing everything from superheroes to sword & sorcery fantasy. He served a stint on the John Constantine (Hellblazer) series and picked up the character of Lucifer where Neil Gaiman left him after the Sandman series ended. Both runs are generally considered to be of high quality.

On his own, with artistic partner Peter Gross, he has created the very impressive Unwritten series, which will soon be wrapping up in its eleventh volume of collected issues.

Moving sideways from comics a few years ago, Carey created the Felix Castor series of supernatural mystery/thrillers, making some use of the Constantine template that has served a number of authors in the genre, inspiring both male and female protagonists, so well.

In Castor’s world the dead have all come back. No one knows why, whether it’s an escape or whether they are running from something nasty that lurks on the other side of life, but what used to be an occasional occurrence has become the norm.

The manifestations are different depending on what means the spirits use. Some are disembodied phantoms and show up as poltergeists. Some inhabit their former bodies and are zombies, slowly decaying walking corpses, unless they find some means of arresting the natural processes. There are ways to maintain the physical and mental capacities, as we learn from one of Castor’s friends, Nicky Heath.

Some inhabit the bodies of animals and, by some means, compel the bodies they hijack to take on human characteristics. These are were-creatures: cats, dogs, larger and smaller animals. Some even colonize groups of creatures and form them into a singular horrific being.

Castor is one of the gifted humans who has the power to control and expel such creatures. He uses tunes on a pennywhistle. Other people sing or chant or do math – it varies.

We begin at a funeral. One of Castor’s fellow exorcists has died under strange circumstances and his spirit is very restless. Felix feels responsible. John Gittings had called him for help, but there was bad blood between them, and Castor had refused the call. Now he feels like he has to find out what it was all about.

At the same time, he has another case to handle. A construction worker has gone mad, apparently, and has committed a dreadful murder, but it is odd that the crime duplicates exactly the serial killings of an Chicago based hit woman named Myriam Kale who has been dead, and supposedly inactive, for forty years.

Off to one side of all this, Castor has to protect the person of his former colleague, Raffi, who was possessed by the demon Asmodeus some years earlier, and lives, guarded, in a padded cell at an institution that would like to get rid of him and hand the problem over to a research facility run by the devious Professor Mulbridge.

There are more creatures than the dead roaming about in this world, though we have met only two of them: demons by nature. One is Castor’s ally, a succubus who has taken the name of Juliet and, after originally having been summoned up to murder him, has instead become a private eye and settled into domestic bliss with a woman. She has a rather devastating effect on men, and this often provides a bit of comic relief, but in this, the third book in the series, she is becoming more of a character and less of a plot device.

The other demon that we know of goes by the more Biblical name of Moloch, and he has his own game to play in this installment. While Juliet dines on sexual energy, Moloch devours tainted spirits.

There are a lot of tainted spirits, a veritable consortium of them, and they have figured out a way to inhabit healthy, living human bodies, displacing or subjugating the still living spirits within them. By this means the crafty dead have achieved a form of virtual immortality, jumping to a new body as the process they use hastens the aging of the one they are using.

I haven’t told you enough to spoil the surprises. This one takes Castor all over London and even on a trans-Atlantic hop to the USA, where things get even more complex than he had believed them to be before he decided to make that trip.

There are several story arcs that are making their way through this series, so it does help to read them in publication order. You can find this on Carey’s Wikipedia page. So far there are five books and a sixth has been promised. I look forward to it.

 -30-

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