01/12/2009. Contributed by Jill Roberts
pub: Bantam Dell. 370 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-59235-1.
check out website: www.bantamdell.com
'Mark Of The Demon' is the story of Kara Gillian, a police detective based in the south east Louisiana town of Beaulac. She worked as a street cop for five years, when promoted to detective she worked in Property Crimes before recently being transferred to the Violent Crimes Division, (Homicide).
There the ordinariness ends, for Kara is a fully-fledged Summoner of Demons. Over the past ten years in her private life, she has been working her way through the different levels as the creatures got bigger and more powerful, until finally she is skilled enough to summon and banish a demon without her Aunt Tessa being present as mentor. Raising and banishing a twelfth level demon successfully on her own was her initiation test, which she passed with no obvious complications.
As she is now working in Homicide Division, Kara can legitimately get her hands on the case notes for the Symbol Man Murders, partly to re-acquaint herself with the information and partly to satisfy her curiosity and find out more about the body with arcane traces she had seen while still a beat cop. The Symbol Man Murders was an unusual case , named for the arcane symbol burned or cut into the flesh of each victim. This had been a four year killing spree, raking up thirteen grisly murders, every two to three months. Then the murders stopped, with no clue as to who had done them or why. Kara is assigned to head the task-force on the case, trying to find out who is behind it all and why they are doing it.
The following night, after looking over the arcane markings on a fresh body, Kara prepares to summon and question a fourth level demon named, Rhysel. Only something far more deadly appears, a demon lord named Rhyzlkahl. At first his rage was a terror to behold. Slowly, he realised it was not Kara that had summoned him, his rage subsided and vanishes. He turns up on several occasions in her dreams that were at first quite steamy and erotic.
The first body had been dumped out of town at the waste treatment plant, the second body was found two days later at Leelan Park, only a couple of miles down town. Not just the same symbol as previous murders but arcane smudges as well, but not clearly enough to make notes. The third body has arcane markings so fresh she could clearly see with her other-sight and sketch them in her note pad to check with her Aunt Tessa for further information. By this time, three federal agents have been assigned to the task force. Matters become even more tangled as Kara and Special Agent Ryan Kristoff become emotionally-attached.
Trouble is, having a demon lord appear when you are expecting a fourth level demon rather knocks your confidence in summoning, so she concentrates more of her time and energies into catching the Symbol Man killer. Both worlds combine as connections lead her to a man named Greg Cerise that her Aunt Tessa was dating back when they were teen-agers and finds out that both of them have seen the demon lord before.
Over the course of the story, as the body count mounts up, Kara realises that the body found at the treatment plant was not the first body, just the first of this month. As a pile of badly decomposing bodies are found on a patch of ground along a deserted stretch of water, she realises that now the perpetrator is no longer bothering to hide the bodies as it all builds up to something big and terrible. To others on the force, the victims are all nobodies, homeless or drug addicts, but not to Kara as they are still people who should not have died in such horrific circumstances. As the tension builds up, Kara finds out that her aunt has been kidnapped and the chief of police thinks her incompetent as she is without any leads on the case, leaving her with 24 hours to solve or be removed from the case.
A thoroughly riveting page-turner, full of realism, the sounds and sights, the textures of everyday life. With a depth of substance and texture that totally immerse you in the story, enabling you to feel as if you are in her shoes. Being there, experiencing everything around you. The murders are on a par with the Ice-Truck-Killer, from season one of the TV series 'Dexter'. Gruesome, but for a rather twisted but common purpose of revenge and power. The story swings from murder-mystery to steamy sexual relationship and back again. Kara is a hard-boiled police detective with feelings, hurts, angers and insecurities at being the lead in a case. As determined to get her man, for the crimes as Dexter's sister, Officer Morgan, just not as foul-mouthed and 'ornery.
There are leads that turn into red herrings, leads that turn out to be dead-ends and villains you didn't see coming as the suspected perpetrator becomes another of the victims.
The story build to a most horrible, yet satisfying climax, that you will have to read to believe and re-read to notice and understand all the previous clues. Some stories dump you in a dark wasteland and you have to figure things out on your own. Other stories end on a high, at the final battle with no resolution to the conflicts. This story gives you some background to the character before the situation builds up. It also gives completeness and a feeling of closure at the end with a feeling of loose ends tied up and matters being resolved. This gives the story a more rounded feeling and is more satisfying to me, personally. Making the story a more complete experience.
'Mark Of The Demon' keeps you guessing right up to the end. If you are reading this story on the bus or train you might find yourself missing your stop. Frequently.
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