The Demon You Know
by Christine Warren
(St. Martin’s, $6.99, R) ISBN 0-312-34777-4
***
The third entry in the Others series, The Demon You Know, features an intriguing urban fantasy setting and good vs. evil conflict. Too bad readers have to spend the entire novel with a shrill heroine.

Abby Baker is the kind of girl who blends into the scenery. She’s like the plain little sister to the girl next door. Her job at a local television station is basically that of glorified gopher, she hasn’t had a date since the Clinton administration and she has no real life to speak of. So how does this mousey girl end up in the middle of a riot? By doing a misguided favor for a friend.

Less than two months ago humans found out that the paranormal exists. Demons, werewolves, witches, vampires – they’re all real and walking around like normal people. Naturally not everyone is terribly happy about this, and the whole thing sparks off rioting. Abby finds herself in the middle of one such riot in New York City when she spies three goony humans harassing an Other. One thing leads to another and Abby soon finds herself possessed by a fiend.

Rule is a demon and it’s his job to keep the fiends in check. Fiends are like rogue demons, set on destruction and mayhem. It’s Rule’s job to stop them, and unfortunately his informant has gone missing. He’s above ground looking for Louamides and discovers him hanging out in Abby’s body like it was a Motel 6. So Rule has no choice in the matter – he has to kidnap Abby until he can figure out a way to exorcise Lou from her body. And above all, he has to keep Lou safe from Uzkiel, a very bad fiend intent on destroying all life as they know it.

It is always a crap-shoot to pick up a book in the middle of a series and not be totally lost, but Warren writes in a clean, crisp style that cuts down on the confusion. Her paranormal world is well developed without being odd, or filled with hard to remember, weird names, and even with many secondary characters she keeps the plot humming along. She also builds this story rather slowly. It takes the first 100 pages to lay the groundwork, which means there is little opportunity for the reader to lose their way.

Unfortunately, while the world building and plot are very good, the romance is lackluster. Try as I might, I just could not figure out what Rule saw in Abby. Breaking this story into four parts here are her range of emotions: 1) dumbfounded 2) too-stupid-to-live 3) shrill and 4) too-stupid-to-live and shrill. By far the low light comes when she tries to escape. Never mind that the club where they are holding her has better accommodations than the Four Seasons. No, all she does is whine and scream about being kidnapped and held against her will. She wants to get away – which would be fine if she weren’t so annoying and completely disregarding the fact that a fiend has taken up residence in her body. Frankly I think most people would be a bit more concerned about that than some crappy job they’re worried about losing.

It’s easy to see what Abby likes about Rule – he’s hot. The lust between these two practically leaps off the pages, although the reader is subjected to pages upon pages of Abby’s shrillness. As far as an actual romance goes, one hopes the Others have good lawyers because Rule will probably end up strangling Abby before they reach their three month anniversary.

Fans already invested in the series will certainly enjoy a return visit to Warren’s urban fantasy world. While this reviewer was new to the series, I had no problem keeping up. That said, there wasn’t quite enough here to make me rush out and read the other two books in the series and I blame that largely on my Abby hangover. Heroines are that tough and self-sufficient are nice to read about, but Abby’s behavior crosses the line into crass. Every time she opened her mouth to argue with Rule I was hoping he’d wield some demon magic and glue her gums shut. No such luck.

--Wendy Crutcher


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