Naomi Clark

Damnation Books
Paperback, $10.96
Review by Darkeva

I’m the first to admit that I have a penchant for urban fantasy and horror novels that feature private investigators and supernatural plots. My leaning is increasingly towards male characters like Harry Dresden and John Taylor.

And I’m adding Naomi Clark’s no-nonsense lead, Ethan Banning, to that list as one of the most engaging first person narrators I’ve encountered.

Clark grounds us in the story with Banning pulling a dead stripper out of a bathtub, an irresistible setup. We then meet the female lead, a cop named Anna who reminded me of Julianna Margulies’ character on The Good Wife. She definitely has a chip on her shoulder and doesn’t take crap from anyone, especially not Banning, who she appears to tolerate at the very least because he helps her solve cases. He is obsessed with her even though he knows she’s out of his league, but that doesn’t stop him from wanting her.

Ethan has a fascinating history that comes off as natural when he describes it, and makes me want to know more about him. A wraith helped suck out a cacodemon from him before, but part of it lives in Ethan. He has to put up with its demands and desires, some of which give him startling nightmares. The demon feeds on a constant need for suffering, which, as one can imagine, makes Banning uncomfortable as he has a conscience and morals.

He even jokes that he wishes he were an incubus – until he meets an unsavoury one connected to the stripper’s death he’s investigating. But the story gets better. The girl who died used to be financially well off, educated, engaged to a rich guy, etc, but the fiancé got suspicious when she started disappearing, and hired Banning to look into her death, find out who’s behind it, why, and how she got mixed up in the seedy underworld in the first place.

To his credit, Banning and Anna’s search leads to a strip club run by an incubus, Moss, who runs the joint (and who sees Ethan’s cacodemon). He has a certain way with women, and Anna, of course, is no exception, which makes it challenging to get her home when she’s leaping at Ethan, begging him to hook up with her, and it’s all he can do not to oblige her.

But the case isn’t the only thing Ethan is trying to solve. He’s also trying to get rid of the cacodemon, but in the meantime, has to settle for sating its appetite by watching some of the most bizarre porn known to man.

As the book goes on, it just keeps getting more and more interesting – definitely a book that could easily make you miss your subway stop. I love Banning’s brash honesty, the way he stands up for himself even if he knows the cacodemon is stronger, and his ballsiness made each scene jump off the page for me.

Eventually, he gets to the root of both problems, and while I won’t spoil anything, I will say that I have to go back and find the other books in this series and that I didn’t even realize that there was a book before this one. Some reviewers have commented that if you haven’t read the first book that you will have difficulty following what goes on in this volume, but for me, that wasn’t the case at all. It was like watching a great episode of The Dresden Files and I’m glad the book ended the way it did because it leaves the possibility of more books open.

It’s refreshing to see a PI novel with supernatural elements that has good storytelling, period, but I do wish that more books like this lined the fantasy and horror shelves in bookshops as opposed to some of the fluffier fare that seems to get prominent placement these days. If you enjoy a great supernatural yarn with mystery elements and a unique voice, pick up Demonized, one of the best books I’ve read this year so far.

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