While I was reading Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland,
I remember thinking how much I love all the creativity and just plain old excellence in the urban fantasy genre these days. This book in particular was so entertaining and fascinating, I was quite pleased to have it to read on my trip - and I was bummed when it was over and I was still on a plane.
Yeah, I had other books to read, but you know how it is when you finish a book you're really rocking on, and no other book will do?
Charlaine Harris describes Mark of the Demon as a cross between a police procedural and an urban fantasy, and I think that's apt description. Main character Kara Gillian is a newbie police detective by day, reclusive demon summoner on certain nights. Much to the dismay of the other detectives, she's been assigned to lead big case--a serial killer!
Cool thing #1: Interesting & realistic details
I enjoy learning new things and getting nerdy little details in books. Rowland spent time as a cop, a crime scene investigator and even in forensics, so she really delivers--not on the dry details, but the way real people behave in that world.
I loved getting the view of a smart, sensitive woman making it in a male dominated profession, how the different people work a crime scene, the way the cops kid each other, the little things they know about each other, autopsy room biz and more.
#2 The odd involvement of a comic book artist and his work in the plot
I won't say much about this, except it was cool. And whenever I thought I had the relationship of the comic and the comic artist to the plot figured out, I was wrong.
#3 Excellent hero/subtle romance balance
Hmm, I better not say anything here, either! Whoa, what kind of review is this, huh? Maybe I'll say this: some people found this book to be a love triangle, some feel it's clearly not a love triangle, and I'm in the not a love triangle category. I felt there was one appropriate hero, and he's evolved through the book in a way that really satisfies me, and also makes me look forward to more from this pair.
Cool thing #4: Demon world details
The whole demon thing was well thought out, but not overly labored. One little detail I thought was so charming - Rhysel, a minor, part-animal demon Kara frequently summons, enjoys Barq's root beer as an offering.
#5: Use of Clothes
I love the way clothes make Kara feel real and even vulnerable. For example, one time cops come to her home and see her in her demon summoning outfit, and they think she's in her pajamas, and actually, her summoning outfit is sort of like simple silk pajamas. (She doesn't get into the "whole flowing robes thing.")
At another point Kara is feeling vulnerable about the investigation and getting all this push-back from male detectives and handsome Fed Ryan, so she puts on a spiffy-looking detective outfit instead of going with her usual casual look. The highly professional suit is a kind of armor against the flak she's getting, but she also looks good in it. These are not "bang you over the head" clothes details, they are just simple, perfect details.
#6 Villain backstory
There's a whole villain backstory, and I rather enjoyed how it made sense when you got to the end. I enjoyed thinking about the plot in retrospect, ruminating on how past events in the villain's timeline intersected with the morality/amorality of the demon world.
Diana Rowland's next book, Blood of the Demon
comes out spring 2010. I am SO there!
Images: Demon portrait: Français : Vitrail néogothique dans l'église Saint-Martin de Florac: Saint Michel et le Démon, détail by Vassil, Police photo, both from Wikimedia.org.