From the Penguin.com website:
“Jesse James Dawson was once an ordinary man until he discovered that demons were real, and fighting them meant putting his own soul on the line. His new case is a beauty: Gretchen Keene, a Hollywood starlet who’s become an unwitting catalyst in an all-out demon war. It’s not her soul Jesse needs to protect, but the two-hundred-and-seventy-six others she’s carting around–all the souls sold to spend just one night with the blonde bombshell. That’s a lot of baggage, although it might explain her meteoric rise to fame. And it’s all up for grabs by the demon world.
All Jesse has to do is keep her safe until New Year’s. Sounds easy. But darkness is casting a nasty shadow in the California sun–a new unseen enemy is closing in and leaving Jesse to wonder: how do you fight something you can’t see coming?”
Near to the end of the previous book in the series, A Shot in the Dark, Jesse made a sort-of deal with Axel the demon. Axel did Jesse a favour… and now Jesse owes Axel a favour in return. What Axel wants is for Jesse to go to Hollywood and protect Gretchen Keene. The timing couldn’t be worse: it’s just after Christmas, so he’s expected to stay home with his family. His friendships are in disarray after the events of A Shot in the Dark, and he isn’t sure if Marty is even speaking to him. And, worse, he’s just found the empty box of a pregnancy test in the bin in the bathroom.
With this book, K.A. Stewart builds on the hints from the previous books that Something Big is going down in Hell; also, we learn more about Ivan, and the fact that Ivan hasn’t exactly been straight with Jesse (nor has Viljo). We learn a bit more about demons, and we get a new ‘monster’ for Jesse to fight. There is no big duel against a demon in this book, but the pace doesn’t suffer for that. There is also a slightly different take on people who sell their souls; hitherto, all of the soul-sellers have been rather foolish individuals who definitely got the worst end of the bargain. Is that always true?
It’s clear that K.A. Stewart’s intention is that the series is to continue, and the scope is probably going to get wider. Axel the demon is clearly going to be a key player. I’m glad, because not only is Axel a great character, his existence gives the book a new dimension. Axel demonstrates that demons are not just mindlessly evil – Axel actually seems to care about Jesse in his own demonic way, beyond merely wanting to collect Jesse’s soul.
Once again, too, Stewart proves that she can really write a convincing male character; without giving anything away, I find Marty’s reaction to the events of the previous book entirely realistic. She also manages to write a good relationship between two people who love and actually trust each other. Have you noticed how rare that is in Fantasyland? Usually the only thing a character’s best beloved has to do is look at a member of the opposite sex, and suddenly the character explodes into a jealous rage and starts wrecking things right, left and centre. Mira trusts Jesse – she knows he wouldn’t betray her, no matter what it looks like. Stewart appears to have resisted the temptation to get a cheap ratcheting up of tension by making Jesse’s relationship fall apart, and as a reward gets a more solid and believable pair of characters.
OK, so this isn’t great literature. It’s not even the tip-top best of the urban fantasy market (I’d put Jim Butcher and Kim Harrison there) but it’s good and solid and it has a protagonist (three, if you count Mira and Axel) that I care about and want to see more of. So I should be looking out for the next book in the series – I hope there is one!