A Shot in the Dark continues a few months after A Devil in the Details, with Jesse James Dawson mostly recovered from his last demon death-dance and tornado tango, but still suffering from nightmares of an earlier near-fatal demon fight. His annual Colorado camping trip with his buddies should provide ample opportunity for rejuvenation and recreation. A walk in the woods, dodging paintballs and pine cones, to a mountain cabin retreat should fit the bill.
His hiatus from demon hunting sputters when Axel, the demon personally plaguing Jesse, invites himself to the pre-vacation barbecue at the Dawson home, despite the wards maintained by Jesse’s wife on the house and the yard. Axel acts strange, even for a demon, and attempts to warn Jesse against making the camping trip, but Jesse just wants Axel gone and ignores the friendly overtures.
Jesse’s road trip across Kansas reminded me of similar adventures west on I-70 — long and boring. Thankfully, K.A. Stewart kept that portion of the narrative succinct and riddled with a bit of humor. Once in Colorado, Jesse and his friends gear up for some paintball hiking. All seems like fun and games until they reach the cabin close to sunset. What should have been a relaxing retreat quickly turns into a siege reminiscent of the Alamo. Jesse’s nightmare demon corrals them with his vaguely zombie-like aggressive minions. After just a couple of days of defensive combat and little sleep, Jesse reaches the limit of his resources. Even an undercover cleric can’t hold the forces of Hell off much better or longer than Jesse. Jesse needs help, but he’s cut off from his colleagues. Help arrives, but does Jesse dare accept the consequences?
A Shot in the Dark provides a good mystery, a few thrills, a new take on zombies, MacGyver-esque innovations in demon fighting and a peek into the true identity of Jesse’s favorite demon sidekick, Axel (hint: read To Reign in Hell by Steven Brust or Milton’s Paradise Lost). This is a strong sequel to last year’s A Devil in the Details and a great summer vacation read. Just don’t forget the holy water, mirrors and swords.
FanLit thanks Jon Moss for contributing this guest review.