Reviewed by Morgan Elektra
Written by Scott A. Johnson
Published by Library of Horror
I am not a city girl. I love to visit them and experience their many advantages, but in the long term I need the space and quiet that cities just can’t provide. And according to our own Scott A. Johnson, my need for some isolation might have saved me from grisly supernatural murder.
The men and women who serve and protect the city of Houston during the hours from sunset to sunrise call themselves nightcrawlers. Detective Johnathan Brock used to be one of them, the resident expert on occult and weird cases, until he nearly died trying to apprehend a bizarre and vicious serial killer. Now when he has skin-to-skin contact with another human, he experiences the last few moments of their life. Not just sees it … experiences it.
The surly detective shuns any human contact, wears leather gloves, and is on a forced leave from active duty called “psychout”. But when another series of murders begins echoing the case that nearly killed him, Brock finagles his way back on the force. With the help of rookie Paige Reynolds, a woman struggling to make an impact in what is still very much a boy’s club, Brock is determined to unravel the mystery of these peculiar murders once and for all.
City of Demons bills itself as “horror noir”, and Johnson’s writing definitely does have that dim and gritty outlook that marks most noir stories. This is not a story of happily-ever-afters and neatly wrapped packages; there is no feel good fluffy bunny message here. The reader gets to see the story both from the perspective of the killer and the detectives, watching as they draw inexorably closer to each other.
Johnson’s characters are all well written. Brock, Reynolds, and the pompous, politically posturing Captain Jennings especially are interesting flawed and believable characters that the reader can, if not relate to, understand and sometimes empathize with. And the story itself is enthralling, especially for anyone who enjoys police procedurals or stories about serial killers or the occult. Not to mention Johnson paints the pages with a more than fair amount of gore and brutality.
My only peeve was that we did not get enough. At a brief 143 pages, the reader is left wanting more. A slower build to the big confrontation, more sleuthing on the parts of Reynolds and Brock, more details on the occult group behind it all. More of everything. I enjoyed every bit of what was written… I only wished that the book had been twice the length it is. For once, this was a case where less was not more. Still, City of Demons is an entertaining if downbeat read that is well written and enjoyable.
4 out of 5
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