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California Demon: The Secret Life of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom    by Julie Kenner order for
California Demon
by Julie Kenner
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

A few months ago, devoted wife, mother and demon-hunter Kate Connor was thrust back into the work-force. But unlike so many other women who routinely try to balance a career with a personal life, Kate's complicated job makes secrecy an absolute must. Her family doesn't know that after she drops off her toddler at day care, she's just as likely to do groceries as she is to do battle with a demon bent on world domination.

When Kate stumbles upon an ancient text after dispatching a demon at her daughter's Family Day school function, she knows her life is once again going to be turned upside down. Her alimentatore (a demon-hunting trainer of sorts) identifies the book as the Malevolenaumachia Demonica, or 'Demon's Malicious Struggle'. The text can be used to communicate with demons imprisoned in Tartarus, the darkest, most vile corner of Hell. Kate knows that any such communication isn't likely to be benign, and that whatever plan the demons are hatching will threaten the town of San Diablo, California, and perhaps the entire world.

California Demon, the follow up to last year's Carpe Demon, is as wildly funny, engaging and suspenseful as the first book in this unique series. Kate Connor is one tough heroine. At times I wasn't sure which one of her two jobs was more demanding: her supernatural calling or her familial tasks. As the story progresses, Kate has her hands full dealing with her husband's political aspirations, her daughter's infatuation with a surfer, her best friend's suspicions that her husband is cheating on her, and her own uncomfortable feelings toward one of her daughter's new teachers. Add to that the fact that demons lurk around every corner, just waiting for an opportunity to put an end to Kate's demon hunting for good, and you have a nail-biter that's impossible to put down.

Kenner manages to imbue all her characters with personality traits that make them utterly believable. Kate's children are playful and charming, but they also behave like real kids. They throw tantrums, demand things, and pout when their mother isn't around as much as they'd like. It's fascinating to watch Kate struggle with what she terms 'mommy guilt'. She loves her job, but she wishes she could spend more time with her children. What mom can't relate to that?

California Demon may take readers on a wild ride along a paranormal route completely foreign to most of us, but the basic themes resonate with a powerful emotional depth to which anyone can relate. I can only hope Kenner is working on a third book featuring Kate and her family.

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