A small group struggles to resist an evil being hell-bent on establishing world domination in this debut thriller.
Twelve-year-old Kyle Chase’s summer in southern Utah with his aunt, Cindy Miller, a real estate agent who dabbles in archaeology, promises excitement. Cindy is taking her nephew, an aspiring archaeologist, to see Native American ruins. Unfortunately, they’re seized by Damon, a devil, it seems, who’s already convinced four homeless men to be his followers. These minions begin abducting other individuals, all of whom are held captive in a secluded desert town Damon somehow keeps concealed. Most, however, can’t see Damon, so he chooses as his vessel Todd Smith, a man living in a military-compound clinic as part of a top-secret project. This project makes Todd’s body uniquely qualified to act as Damon’s host but also sends soldiers like Mitch Swenson on the hunt to bring the fugitive back. Meanwhile, Kyle’s looking for a way to escape along with Cindy and the people imprisoned in the town jail. Damon’s planning to set up his kingdom on Earth, but there’s a glimmer of hope: a “worthy adversary” he’ll soon face again, possibly the same stranger who’s working with Mitch in tracking down Damon/Todd. Although it’s apparent who Damon and the source of the “gentle voice” occasionally comforting Kyle are, Chadwick’s novel allows for some mystery. There’s ambiguity, for one, surrounding Cindy’s search for a wooden statue inexplicably tied to the death of her boss. The author likewise intersperses her suspenseful narrative (myriad characters in unmistakable danger) with shades of dark humor: Damon says to his flunkies, tasked with acquiring more people, “Let’s see if we can’t get all five here alive this time, shall we?” Kyle’s a strong hero, admirably resilient and altruistic, not even entertaining the notion of leaving others behind. But his plan’s somewhat confusing; despite ready access to the cells (he delivers food), Kyle opts for getting himself thrown in jail with everyone else.
A commendable supernatural tale with a capable young protagonist and room for a sequel.