Author: Dan Simmons

Darktales Publications / 169 pages / (October 1, 1999)

ISBN: 0967202914

There is no question that Steven Lee Climer is hot right now. On his third novel, and he’s already hip-deep in nominations, honours, and awards. (He’s also wading through a sea of nappies, but that’s another story.) Pretty soon, Climer’s going to pass that “rising-star” stage and hit full stardom.

And as Demonesque deftly demonstrates, the acclaim is well deserved.

Huron City, Michigan, is supposed to be a peaceful hamlet, a retreat from the dangers and distractions of the big city. That’s how it’s supposed to operate, but things don’t always work out like you hope. Especially when a serial killer is on the loose.

Something like that can ruin a good town for everybody. It can also make everyone in town suspect everyone else. Ask Detective Rick Gilroy — he can hardly decide who to investigate first; all the suspects look so good.

Suspect NumberĀ 1 remains Moreen Valentino, the town’s tacitly acknowledged psychic, who is involuntarily linked to the victims in their dying moments. She shares their pain, their fear, and too many details about the crimes to be innocent. Gilroy doesn’t believe the psychic story, so she must be involved.

Maybe she’s half of a murderous duo with Ed Cooper as her muscle. After all, Cooper just moved to town, he’s spending a bit too much time with Moreen, and he did work for a shady insurance company. What more evidence does the good detective need?

Let me give you a word of advice: if you are one of those readers who can’t resist trying to solve the mystery before the end, you are going to be second-guessing yourself every few pages. Climer does a masterful job of shifting suspicion from one character to another, over and over again. He keeps his secrets until the breathless, brutal ending.

That off-balancing act is not the only thing that makes this a standout piece for Climer. Demonesque is Climer at his most assured. From the start, the reader can feel the relaxed, confident tone of the work that says Climer has found his voice and his pace. If he were the kind of author to settle into a niche, he could easily rest in this comfort zone for the rest of his career, but anyone who has kept up with his body of work knows that that is just not Climer.

If Climer’s fans have learned anything, they have learned not to expect more of the same; stretching and challenging his imagination is what makes him such an entertaining writer. Demonesque is no more like Bearwalker than Bearwalker is like Dream Thieves.

Expect chills, tension, and a wholly original story, but don’t think you can anticipate anything more about Climer’s fiction. While you are pouring through this book, he is hard at work on something entirely new, and you won’t see it coming until it’s too late.