Mark of the Demon
"Cop and conjurer of demons, she's a woman in danger of losing control - to a power that could kill.
Why me? Why now? That's what Beaulac, Louisiana, detective Kara Gillian was asking herself when an angelic creature named Rhyzkahl unexpectedly appeared during a routine summoning. Kara was hoping to use her occult skills to catch a serial killer, but never had she conjured anything like this unearthly beautiful and unspeakably powerful being whose very touch set off exquisite new dimensions of pleasure. But can she enlist his aid in helping her stop a killer who's already claimed the lives - and souls - of thirteen people? And should she? The Symbol Man is a nightmare that the city thought had ended three years ago. Now he's back for an encore and leaving every indication on the flesh of his victims that he, too, is well versed in demonic lore.
Kara may be the only cop on Beaulac's small force able to stop the killer, but it is her first homicide case. Yet with Rhyzkahl haunting her dreams, and a handsome yet disapproving FBI agent dogging her waking footsteps, she may be in way over her head..."Mark of the Demon is the first in the Kara Gillian series from Diana Rowland. Kara is a small town detective who has just been promoted. She's also a summoner, able to pull demons through from their plane of existence with arcane energy. 3 years ago as a beat cop, she caught sight of traces of the arcane on a victim of the Symbol Man. Ever since she's been curious about it, but the murders stopped shortly after. Now they're starting again and now a detective, Kara can get close to the bodies and see if the arcane is connected to this victim, and possibly all the past ones as well. But it's her first homicide case and she's got a lot of heat on her, from her superiors and from those who don't think she's qualified for the job. FBI agent Ryan Kristoff doesn't make it any easier, constantly on her heels trying to figure out what she knows and how she's figured out so much having never been on the original cases.
But the murders aren't all Kara has to worry about. The same night of the first of the new killings, she some how messed up a summoning. Instead of pulling through a lower level demon to give her advice, she managed to pull through a Demon Lord. Who could kill her with ease. Instead he seduces her, and continues to plague her dreams and thoughts when she needs to focus on the case.
I loved this book. I got hooked very early on and it didn't let go. It's a great mix of police procedural and paranormal. Kara is smart, down to earth, tough, vulnerable, lonely and very likable. She's not described as beautiful, she talks about having to really work to keep herself in shape - and that she doesn't do it enough. She's very real and I love how she tries at once to protect herself, and yet shows her vulnerability as well. Kara's history, a messed up teen who did her share of drugs and got clean, was something I liked as well. She shows she's far from perfect, but she works hard for what she wants now. She knows how to work people, and that things don't always work out as they should.
I couldn't figure out who the bad guy was until the reveal, which I very much enjoyed. It took so many twists, I kept thinking, like Kara (though not always agreeing with her), that I had it figured out when *bang* something else happened and it was all upside down again. It's tightly plotted, tense, very sexy at times, dark, twisted and brilliant. My stomach churned at some of the descriptions of the bodies, not something I normally flinch too much at. The author doesn't pull any punches! I liked the world building, with the small town setting, and how the demon world works. Different levels of demons, different prices to pay for summoning. How honer is everything to them and while they're self serving, they're not really evil.
There is a romantic sub plot running through the book, though you'd be forgiven for thinking it bigger than it actually is with the way things heat up early on, and very fast. But it does remain in the back ground, adding to the book without dominating anything. I loved the balance of that sub plot, the police side, and the way the paranormal blended in as well. They worked very well together to create a story I really struggled to put down. FBI man Kristoff and demon Lord Rhyzkahl were both great secondary characters. Both mysterious and clearly hiding ulterior motives, though obviously very different ones, it was fun and tense watching Kara deal with them both. How she handled them, how they played off her and there was a nice contrast between the two, the human and the very not.
Overall, a really great read! Hard to put down, great characters, particularly Kara who is one of the most down to earth realistic protagonists I think I've read. Tight plot, plenty of surprises, a setting that just added to the overall atmosphere and an intense conclusion all made for a very enjoyable read. Loved it, would highly recommend it and having already read the second book (loved it even more than this), I'm very much looking forward to the third! 9/10
Some minor spoilers for Mark of the Demon ahead in the review for book 2, you have been warned :)
Blood of the Demon
"Between heaven and hell, man and demon, she's about to face the one thing she may not be able to survive.
Welcome to the world of Kara Gillian, a cop with a gift. Not only does she have the power of 'othersight' to see what most people can't even imagine, but she's become the exclusive summoner of a demon lord. Or maybe it's the other way around. The fact is, with two troublesome cases on her docket and a handsome FBI agent under her skin, Kara need the help of sexy, insatiable Lord Rhyzkahl more than he needs her. Because these two victims, linked by suspicious coincidence, haven't just been murdered. Something has eaten their souls.
It's a case with roots in the arcane, but whose evil has flowered among the rich, powerful, and corrupt in Beaulac, Louisiana. And as the killings continue, Kara soon realises how much there's still to learn about demons, men, and things that kill in the night - and how little time she has to learn it."
This second Kara Gillian book picks up about a month after the end of Mark of the Demon. Kara is back at work and back summoning, although she's having a few anxiety issues with the second. But work draws her focus, especially when a cop is found dead, apparent suicide. With his soul torn out of him. Kara is convinced that someone, or something, with access to the arcane is involved, but getting to the bottom of the case is going to be easier said than done. A second murder victim, with ties to the cop, is found soon after. Kara's gut says they're linked in more ways than one, but she's not sure she can prove it.
FBI agent Ryan Kristoff is hanging around again as well, and Kara's not too sure why. For some reason demon's seem to have an odd interest in him, but they won't say why and Ryan denies knowing why. Kara'd like to get to the bottom of it, but she's quickly learning there is a lot more to demons and the other uses of arcane energy out there than she first realised. If that wasn't enough, demon Lord Rhyzkahl wants Kara to agree to be his summoner. And she can't seem to stop dreaming about him either.
This second Kara Gillian book was even better than the first. Having got to know the characters some in the first book we now get to know them better. But I'm still wondering just what Ryan is, and what he knows because I'm convinced there is far more too him than we're currently seeing. But trying to figure it out is all part of the fun, even if it gets a little frustrating at times. Kara's struggling in this book, not just with her cases and some of the cops she works with, but with the knowledge she's discovering. And she's struggling on a personal level, with her aunt still unconscious, her essence missing, and no idea how to help her. I really felt for Kara as she attempted to figure out how to help her aunt, and what she faced dealing with some of the issues her aunt being in that state meant.
Like the first book, I couldn't figure the cases out. So many twists and turns and actually had almost too much trouble keeping names straight through it. But I didn't care. It was just too good for me to mind that tiny thing. I knew who they were talking about most the time, and really enjoyed trying to keep up with the way Kara's mind works, fitting things together and figuring out what might have happened. Once again I didn't see the end coming at all, and there were some smaller surprises as well which I really liked. Kara is naturally suspicious and it gets her in trouble more than once, but I couldn't blame her for reacting the way she does. Kara is pretty wound up through this whole book for one reason or another and it gets to her. She's human and she shows it, and I love it. I like seeing her loose her temper when things just go too far, and she may know she should keep her mouth shut but she doesn't. And I love seeing her break down a little dealing with some of the pain she is covered in. She's such a realistic character and I love reading about her, getting to know her better.
I think this book moves a little faster than the first one, with more different threads to tangle together than Mark of the Demon as well. But it works. It's still tightly plotted with plenty of action and paranormal alongside the more standard police work and autopsies. It all comes together in an intense ending that I loved and left me wanting more. It's not a cliff hanger at all, it wraps up the main plots just fine while leaving on going threads open for the next books. But it still left me hungry for more and if book 3 had been out already, I'd have torn straight in to it. As it is, I've got to wait til Jan 4th 2011 for it and it feels like a really long wait. Enjoyed it even more than the first book, which I really did love, and I'm very excited for more in this series. 9/10