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Dead Men's Boots
Mike Carey
Narrated by Michael Kramer, unabridged
Tantor Audio, 16 hours

Dead Men's Boots
Mike Carey
Mike Carey was born in Liverpool, England, in 1959. He earned a first class degree in English at St Peter's College, Oxford before becoming a teacher. He continued to teach for 15 years before moving on to writing comics. He gained regular employment at 2000 AD, where he created original series Th1rt3en and Carver Hale. For the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics, Carey went on to write the entire run of the Eisner Award-nominated comic book Lucifer, and issues 175 to 215 of Hellblazer and he also wrote the original graphic novels The Sandman Presents: The Furies with John Bolton and Hellblazer: All His Engines with Leonardo Manco. He is the ongoing writer of X-Men: Legacy.

Mike Carey Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sarah Trowbridge

  Shortly after the turn of the 21st century, the dead started coming back. There had always been a few dead souls who returned, here and there, of course -- but this wholesale rising was something new and troublesome. The situation offered a silver lining of sorts to Felix Castor and others like him: natural exorcists, born with the knack of laying dead souls to rest. What had previously been useful only as a quirky hobby or a party trick became a profitable and sought-out profession. It can be an unpleasant way of making a living, to be sure, but Castor has, as he puts it, "shouldered the live man's burden" and gone to work.

Felix Castor -- or "Fix," as his friends call him -- lives and works in a London that closely resembles the real-life, modern-day city, but with that overlay of strangeness that comes from the constant presence of not only the risen dead (in the form of ghosts, zombies, and other manifestations),  but also various demonic types who hail from Hell originally. In fact, two of Castor's close associates are representatives of the world beyond: Juliet Salazar, the deadly beautiful succubus who is trying to renounce her natural appetites, and Nicky Heath, a zombie data broker who has taken meticulous steps to preserve his reinhabited flesh from the usual processes of decay.

As the story opens, Castor faces two problems that appear to be wholly unrelated. One of his colleagues in the London exorcist community, John Gittings, has committed suicide, but only after leaving several messages asking for Castor's help with something unspecified -- messages that Castor ignored. Attending the funeral, Castor learns from Gittings's widow Carla that her husband's ghost is hanging around the flat and getting rather violent. Guilt-ridden, Castor feels obligated to respond to Carla's pleas for help sorting out what John was working on before he died, and what continues to trouble him now. It turns out to be quite a puzzle.

Meanwhile, across town, Castor also has business in the Magistrate's Court, where he is attempting to gain control over the fate of his best friend Rafi Ditko. Rafi is being held as an involuntary mental patient, as a result of having become possessed by the demon Asmodeus, an event (from a previous book in the series) in which Castor was closely and disastrously involved. In the current legal battle, Castor and his erstwhile friend Pen Bruckner are trying to prevent Rafi's transfer to a shadowy research facility run by the formidable Dr. Jenna-Jane Mulbridge, a longtime nemesis of Castor's. 

A third battlefront soon opens for Castor, when a walk-in client requests his help exonerating her husband for a brutal murder in a pay-by-the-hour hotel. Evidence indicates the involvement of a third party, and it looks like the legendary (and long-dead) American female mobster Myriam Kale.

As Castor pursues these three separate cases, he and the reader gradually begin to discern the threads that connect them to one another, leading to a much bigger story and a much more climactic confrontation than he bargained for. Michael Kramer applies his cool inflections to Felix Castor's first-person narration, to good effect for the most part. There are moments when he is almost too cool, when the contrast between Kramer's understated delivery and the fever pitch of the action threatens to undermine the drama.

Overall, though, Kramer tells Castor's story well. He does a particularly impressive job portraying the demon Moloch, with his "dry, brittle, utterly inhuman voice... metal grinding against bone." those who enjoy Jim Butcher's Dresden Files series and Simon R. Green's Nightside books should find much to entertain them in Felix Castor's world. Dark and gritty in tone, violent and bloody at times, the story is well leavened throughout with dry humor.

Dead Men's Boots is the third book in the Felix Castor series, and while there are numerous references to events that occurred in the previous two books, readers can easily start the series here and enjoy the story. However, those who do may find themselves seeking out books one and two, having become ensnared by Mike Carey's otherworldly noir.

Copyright © 2010 Sarah Trowbridge

Sarah Trowbridge reads (and listens) compulsively, chronically, and eclectically. She is a public librarian in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia.

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