The Daemoniac (A Dominion Mystery #1)
By: Kat Ross
Publication Date: October 12th, 2016
It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.
But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.
From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?
I’ve said so before, but Kat Ross is a serious favorite of mine and an author I don’t hear about quite often enough. In her new series, Kat moves seamlessly from the relaxed, flowing writing style of her Fourth Elements series to the much more direct and structured style of The Daemoniac. It’s a style that is obviously reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and it is done well. It is not a direct echo of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, but pays homage to it in a way that anyone who enjoyed the original will find it familiar and with Kat’s own original spin added.
Speaking of Conan Doyle, references to the Sherlock Holmes stories can be found throughout (identifying cigarette ash, anyone?) and parallels as well, most notably in the Myrtle/Mycroft older sister and in Harry’s loyal friend and partner in crime solving, John, who is studying to become a doctor. This is blended nicely with the Jekyll and Hyde and Jack the Ripper influences.
The setting, the bustling but ever growing city of New York right before the turn of the century, was vibrant and detailed. The contrast between the rich and poor and the fine line that New York’s layout drew between the two, made the research that Kat has done stand out beautifully without being obvious. It felt organic and natural to be getting a refresher course on APUSH alongside a narrative that I devoured. Of all the historical figures that find their names in this book, I was delighted that Nellie Bly, a personal favorite historical lady of mine, wasn’t only mentioned but made an appearance. I loved how her character was included, too. She is a personal friend of Myrtle’s, the two women bonding over fighting for a place in a man’s world and being damn good at it.
While in that vein of female ingenuity, I adored how Kat makes note of Conan Doyle’s famous detective being inspired by Myrtle’s adventures and accomplishments. In Myrtle’s shadow falls Harry, whose education in crime solving has been gleaned from paying close attention to her older sister’s practices and habits. I loved spending the book inside Harry’s head, listening in as she worked things out. As an utterly delightful heroine quite ahead of her time, she navigates her many obstacles and her first mystery with aplomb. Harry’s relationships with the rest of her entourage were just as real as they were fun. John, Connor, Edward, they each played a role and did it well, each serving Harry in their own unique way.
The Daemoniac is an amazing mix of Sherlockian mystery and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with a dark air of the occult hovering over the scene. Kat, once again, immerses the reader in another time and place in a dark tale, the streets of New York turn magical and haunting under her writing, that leaves the main mystery resolved, with plenty of clever twists along the way, but so much more left undiscovered. If she hadn’t already won my undying love, she would have with this book. It is an excellent and thrilling start to a new series, one that will definitely ease the pain of finishing the last book in The Fourth Element trilogy.
Kat Ross worked as a journalist at the United Nations for ten years before happily falling back into what she likes best: making stuff up. She lives in Westchester with her kid and a few sleepy cats. Kat is also the author of the dystopian thriller Some Fine Day (Skyscape, 2014), about a world where the sea levels have risen sixty meters. She loves magic, monsters and doomsday scenarios. Preferably with mutants.
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Disclaimer: The synopsis and cover picture were pulled from the book’s Goodreads page. Neither belong to us. The author image, info, giveaway and more were provided by Xpresso Book Tours. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.