Friday, December 28, 2018

Practical Demonkeeping

Practical Demonkeeping
by Christopher Moore
Recommended Ages: 15+

I got a kick out of this author's book The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, not realizing at the time that it was the second book in a trilogy that started with this book and continues with The Stupidest Angel. Thanks to my mom's husband, who used my recent wish-list of "further books in series I've started to read" to shop for Christmas presents for me, I finally got the chance to go back to where it all started in the 1992 debut novel of the author of Bloodsucking Fiends, A Dirty Job and Island of the Sequined Love Nun, among other droll fantasies.

Where it all started is Pine Cove, Calif., whose claim to fame is being the city with the most divorced women per capita. One local female whose divorce is not yet final is a good-looking waitress named Jenny, who recently got the help she needed from a local coven of witches before kicking out her loser husband, when who should come into her life but a good-looking young insurance salesman who is actually a 90-year-old demonkeeper.

Travis stopped aging when, as a badly abused seminary student, he summoned Catch. Now he is condemned to travel the country with a scaly creature that only he can see except when it is about to eat someone - and that then grows all too horribly visible. Travis has been trying to find a way to get rid of Catch since World War I was on, but only now, in Pine Cove, does he seem to have found what he needs. Catch, meanwhile, thinks he has found his ticket to be free of Travis, whose insistence on not eating anyone who will be missed is as irritating to the demon as the demon's appetites are to his keeper. Unknown to both of them, a third player in the scenario - Gian Hen Gian, the King of the Djinn - has recruited a Zen alcoholic to help him send Catch back to hell.

Completing the ensemble are a vice detective desperate to catch one of the west coast's slimiest dealers, an elderly couple whose love story is intertwined with Travis' quest, and a woman whose determination to never let a man hurt her again may unleash an evil held in check since the time of King Solomon. Stir together and cook at the temperature of a California beach town, and it proves to be a recipe for hilarious, sexy, horrifying adventure, full of criss-crossing lines of character motivation and plot.

I know it's a weird thing to say about an author by whom I have already read several books, but I think this is a first novel that shows a lot of promise. Moore has followed up on it unevenly, in my opinion, but I have taken enough entertainment from these books - particularly of the laughs and chills persuasion - to be interested in reading more. Among his other titles are Secondhand Souls, You Suck, Fluke, Sacre Bleu and, most recently, Noir.

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