Personal Demons by James Buchanan
Hunting a notorious hit man, FBI Agent Chase Nozick and LAPD Det. Enrique Rios Ocha delve into the inner worlds of Santeria, Voodoo and Palo Mayumbe. A missing informant, her murdered brother and a ghost from Chase’s past send them on a hunt through mystics and psychic surgeons to find their witness before it’s too late. Can he rely on leads from a child possessed by Orishas? Do cards hold stronger clues than blood? Chase must conquer his own personal demons to bring the killer of his partner to justice and find the strength to take a chance on Enrique.
Personal Demons is an interesting and incredibly detailed look at police procedures mixed with religion. Here the best part of the book is the dynamic relationship between the two men, Enrique and Chase. The story itself is filled with extensive research into procedure and religious history, to the point it overwhelms the story in various places. The strong thread of connection, sexual and emotional, of the main characters keeps the story moving and ultimately creates an enjoyable reading experience.
FBI Agent Chase Nozick is fighting personal demons as he struggles with his alcoholism and his determination to catch his partner’s killer. Since the fateful day years ago, Chase has been on a downward spiral, only temporarily derailed by a new assignment. Chase finally has the chance to find the hit man responsible but it means finding the hit man’s missing girlfriend. Teaming up with LAPD Det. Enrique Rios-Ocha, the sexual chemistry sparks immediately and the two are involved in more than just this manhunt. Enrique’s religion plays an essential part in the mystery and Chase is confronted with a number of issues he’s not sure he can handle.
The story is well crafted with the intricacies of the Santeria and Voodoo religions closely woven into the police manhunt. The wealth of knowledge and research is shown in the details of the religion from card readings to psychic witchdoctors and numerous rituals. This level of detail often overwhelms the story and detracts from the goal ~ finding the hit man’s girlfriend ~ so much that the reason Chase and Enrique are doing all of this is sometimes forgotten. Several scenes such as the first murder of the girlfriend’s brother, the shop, and the drug bust seem filled with minute details that offer little to the overall story but slow the pace and fluidity. The story seems to offer an overabundance of information and terminology, which is unfamiliar and sometimes blends together. The use of religion and ritual offers a twist on the classic procedural drama and a different flavor but a few less scenes of such information and more about the actual girlfriend and hit man would have helped balance this element more successfully.
If the plot is sometimes convoluted with details, missing connections, and obvious foreshadowing, the characterization is very well executed. The characters of Chase and Enrique really come alive with their personalities, flaws, and chemistry. Chase’s demons from his own insecurity, fear of his sexuality being discovered and overall skepticism make a solid foil for the unfamiliar religious beliefs presented. Enrique’s easy going mannerisms are fun and entertaining from his sly beliefs to confidence in his sexuality and ability to love Chase without overwhelming him. Their connection is easy and obvious with a rather predictable first meeting, backroom, anonymous sex then predictably working together. However the strength of their connection helps overcome this initial introduction. Their relationship is sexually easy, they don’t bother to deny their desire or urges, but the emotional connection is slower in coming. The real tension in the story is from the police dynamics and the strong relationship with only a touch of angst balances the story in a great way. The sex scenes are hot, involved and become less about the sex as the story progresses.
The writing is crisp and clean with a real flair for authenticity. Clearly the author has researched the religions, and permutations of such, to a heavy degree. That is clearly translated to the story, sadly at times to its detriment. However there is a level of care and meticulousness that must be applauded. This story will appeal to fans of the author and those who enjoy complex police dramas. Don’t let the religious details slow you down or confuse you, there are a lot but the focus on Chase and Enrique helps pull the meandering details back on to the narrative. The third person perspective from Chase is engaging and enticing, drawing readers in almost immediately with his flawed personality. I was almost sorry it had to end and look forward to the author’s next offering.
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