When I was living in California, I read a novel called Dark Rain, a Science Fiction Book Club selection. I enjoyed the story so much, I did a review of it and posted it on amazon.com. A few months ago, I received an e-mail from the author, asking me if I would like to review the second story in the series, Night of Demons. Of course, I said yes. Shortly after that, I received an ARC mailed from England where Tony Richards makes his home. I settled down eagerly to read Night of Demons. Here are my opinions:

Ever since I read Dark Rain, I've been looking forward to reading its sequel. I even said so in my review of that book. Now, I've had my chance and I wasn't disappointed. Night of Demons can be best described as Law and Order meets the X-Files, and then it escalates into sheer terror and mayhem. Once more, Tony Richards takes us back to Raine's Landing for a few fantastic days in the lives of detective Ross DeVries and the magically-inclined inhabitants of that locked-away town. (An explanation here: Raines Landing became a haven for the real witches who escaped Salem. They settled there, intermarried, and were accepted, except for one who ended up being burned at the stake by the townspeople. She left them with a curse--no one born in Raine's Landing can ever leave and anyone coming in from outside can never stay or remember the town after they leave.)



The story begins like a police procedural with serial killer Cornelius Hanlon, dubbed the "Shadow Man," escaping from Boston police, taking a wrong turn and ending up in Raine's Landing. His first act upon arriving is to murder one of the town's leading adepts and steal a mystical wand--the Wand of Dantiere. Created by a madman, no one is aware it was created to bring about the Apocalypse and can only bond with someone who is insane. In Hanlon, it meets its soulmate, and soon more deaths ensue, ordinary people turning into psychotic killers who are reluctantly gunned down by the Landing's police. When Hanlon joins forces with Millicent Tollburn, who has her own reasons for hating the townsfolk, the crimes, which up until this point are merely those of people
running amok, become full-fledged horror, and before it ends, a rift in dimensions showers thousands of demonic creatures upon the town as Hanlon's version of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse thunder down its streets.

Enter Lauren Brennan, Detective Lieutenant of the Boston Police, a woman so obsessed with tracking down Hanlon, she ignores the subliminal warnings to stay away from the Landing. By this time, Ross DeVries and his associate Cassie and Landing police Lieutenant Saul Hobart are on the case. Though Lauren at first treats them like country bumpkins, once she's exposed to what passes for everyday life in the little town, she quickly changes her opinion. The Outsider joins forces with the Landing's PD in fighting what Hanlon has become. At the crucial moment, the adepts themselves refuse to help; accepting the power of the Wand, they're huddled together to await the End, so it's up to the townsfolk to save themselves.

One again, we're introduced to characters from the first book--Ross, Cass, the Little Girl, Willets, Saul Hobart, and the by now totally insane and agoraphobic Master of Raine's Landing, Woodard Raine. Numerous mention is made of events occurring in Dark Rain--the attack by the demon Saruak and Ross' part in defeating him and the fact that Ross has been designated some kind of Defender for the town, though he has no idea why--which helps set the stage for what is coming. There is delving into the mental processes of both heroes and villains alike. Millicent Tollburn had been a victim of her grandfather's excursions into sorcery--suffering magical child abuse, if you will--and she erroneously believes her grandfather's colleagues were aware and did nothing. To her, revenge upon the Landing is justified. Hanlon believes the voices he hears are telling him to bring about the Apocalypse,to purge the Earth of all living things so it can be inhabited anew and he's more than willing to help bring it about. Cass and Ross are still individuals scarred and haunted by the loss of their families through magic--families they continue to believe alive in another dimension somewhere--and they've banded together in their grief, dedicating themselves to fighting evil whenever it appears. When he first meets Lauren Brennan, Ross is momentarily shaken, for she bears a startling resemblance to his missing wife, Alicia, and throughout the story, his attraction to her is evident. Considering this, when he invites her to stay at his home, one automatically expects a seduction scene, a brief respite of release in the midst of all the horror, but Ross has the emotional stability to understand Lauren isn't Alicia no matter how much she looks like her and his fidelity to his absent wife prevents him from acting. (Understandable and laudable, but one is so touched by his bereavement that there's a wish for the poor guy to weaken just a little and be allowed a brief moment of pseudo-pleasure.)

Before the story is over, most of the town is demolished, a large portion of the populace is killed, and Ross once more allows himself to be a vessel through which magic is channeled. There's a terrible cost for victory, however, and he loses Cassie to the darkness in her soul and Lieutenant Hobart to near-fatal wounds. Her quest over, Lauren now begins to hear the voices telling her to leave. When she returns to Boston, Ross makes a half-hearted effort to let her know he'd like her to stay but one can see his heart isn't really in it; he's still waiting for his wife and children to somehow, someday return from wherever they're being held. Swearing she won't forgot Ross or the town, and-in spite of the fact that she has a brief moment of amnesia loss-she forces herself to remember.

Kudos, Tony!
I enjoyed every page of Night of Demons and all I can say is, it matches its predecessor in tension, good characterization, and sheer excitement. My only complaint? When it was learned that only an insane person could defeat the power of the Wand, I guessed who that person had to be, but it took several more chapters for any of the characters to figure it out. That, however, is a trivial point. Now, of course, I'm begging for a third book--to recover Cassie, get Saul back into fighting shape, and maybe have Lauren return to the Landing--or at least let Ross learn the true fate of his family...so he can have some kind of closure and perhaps find a little happiness as he continues his quest to learn why he's been appointed Raine's Landing's Defender.

(The writer of this review was given an Advance Review Copy of the novel by the author. Night of Demons goes on sale October 27, 2009.))

4 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // September 17, 2009 at 3:49 PM  

    So what did he get a five star?

    I used to read science fiction ferociously. Now I'm into another genre, but I still love a good Sci Fi now and again.

  2. Toni V.S. // September 17, 2009 at 7:57 PM  

    Tony got 4 stars. He's got to have something to work for! :))

  3. Mary Marvella // September 17, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

    He sounds like a good writer.

  4. Judy // September 18, 2009 at 8:18 AM  

    Interesting, Toni! I think I'd have to read the first book to get into the second book but it seems like a fun read! Thanks for sharing!