Review: Demon Hunts by C.E. Murphy

August 25, 2010 Books, Reading, Reviews 0 ★★★★

This series was a slow-burner for me. The first book, Urban Shaman, introduced us to Joanne Walker (born Siobahn Grainne McNamara Walkingstick) – a half-Cherokee, half-Irish mechanic-turned-cop who is starting to come into her confusing and strange heritage. Author Murphy swaps back and forth in her books from supernatural crimes involving figures from Cherokee & Native American legends as well as those familiar to Irish folklore. It reminds me of Kathy Reichs and her Montreal-Charlotte back-and-forth. First we got the Wild Hunt of Irish myth, then to a Native American legend in Thunderbird Falls, and mixture of the two in the third and fourth volumes, Coyote Dreams and Walking Dead. This time we get treated to my favorite/least favorite Native American myth, that of the wendigo. I say both favorite and least favorite because the legend of the wendigo scares the CRAP out of me, but I love being scared. I have Alan Schwartz to thank for that. Thanks Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark! Besides just interesting crimes to solve, Murphy’s “Walker Papers” also treats us to some excellent minor characters (for example, the sassy old taxi driver Gary and her cross-dressing detective friend Billy Holliday).

By the time we find Joanne in Demon Hunts, she has done some serious damage to the balance of shamanic powers in Seattle. Her unfamiliarity with her own powers and abilities, plus the death of her mentor, Coyote, have left her floudering, unsure of herself and how to fix the damage she has caused. Her boss, police Captain Michael Morrison, has bowed out of the running for her heart (when it came down to it, neither would give up their jobs, thus truncating any chances of anything beyond friendship), but he still has a grudging faith in her and her abilities. Teamed up with fellow detective Billy Holliday (who has a certain psychic sensitivity, is married to a witch, and likes to wear dresses), Morrison has made Walker & Holliday his go-to team for any weird cases that come across his desk. When folks start dying out at a fancy resort and leave nothing but gnawed corpses and burned bits behind, Walker and Holliday are on the case. (And the Murphy-verse version of Mulder and Scully show up, and there is no love lost between the government types and the local law – gotta love a little interdepartmental passive-aggression, right?)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I was getting a little worried that Jo was having all these wild effects on the balance of powers, but wasn’t really being treated to any of the consequences. Those consequences started showing a little in Coyote Dreams but were soundly wrapped up by another character (or so we think?). Here we get a little bit of everything: Jo’s *feeling* the last few months of strained powers, her connection to the imbalance is felt a little more keenly, and she’s alone – and more than a little lost. The crime-solving aspect seems to be more prevalent in this volume than in previous volumes, and perhaps that is why this is my favorite so far. I love her strange shamanic connections and Gary being on-hand for tambourining (is that even a word?) her into the spirit realm (the “Lower World”) at a moment’s notice, and how possessive she is of who touches her spiritual objects. (I’m still not giving up on Morrison because it still gives her a little twiggle when he “drums [her] down”, and he’s the only one besides Gary “allowed” to do so.) Joanne’s love life gets more and less complicated in turns (so much for trying to be normal), and when becoming a part of her life means wading hip-deep in the spiritual plane that hovers around the Pacific Northwest, it is understandable that only a few truly have the stomach to even try. We get more police work, more Lower World, more about Joanne’s past (I tell you the fandom suspicion surrounding her long-ago pregnancy is approaching Dragon Age’s godbaby), and plenty to tease us about what might be on the horizon. There’s more I want to fangirl about, but without giving away key points of the story, it’s rather impossible, and I like to only vaguely spoil folks.

This one definitely kept me up. Again, that might be the wendigo thing. I almost stopped reading it when the similarities to that long-ago childhood tale began to assert themselves – because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Turns out I stayed up anyway because once the action got going, it kept going, and this one was really hard to put down. I also found myself curling up with a blanket in the middle of a Florida summer, but that bit is because Murphy carefully crafts her scenes and I felt every gust of wind through the crispy frosted trees. Nothing is fully wrapped up or resolved, so I am heartily looking forward to further volumes. There’s a big showdown coming, and is it just me, or is anyone else waiting for the Wild Hunt and little Susie to come back and lead our heroine into battle? I do love an epic showdown, and we know Joanne knows how to wield a sword…