Demon Ex Machina by Julie Kenner: C

demon-ex-machinaFrom the back cover:
With her first husband possessed by a demon and her current husband spending way too much time at home, Demon Hunter Kate Connor is having one hell of a month…

In between demon patrols and teaching self-defense classes for local moms, Kate has to deal with a teenage daughter, who is gung ho about being a demon slayer in training, and a toddler son entering a tantrum phase that rivals anything from the pits of hell.

To make matters worse, ever since her current husband, Stuart, learned about her secret life, he’s been practically smothering her with attention. That wouldn’t be so bad, except now Stuart’s fired up to learn everything he can about demons, and that kind of research can get a former desk jockey killed.

It’s a lot to juggle. And on top of it all, Kate has to find a way to release the demon possessing her first husband, Eric, without destroying the man inside. Because if the demon within Eric gets free, it just might be more than this seriously stressed suburban mom can handle…

In my review of the previous volume in the Tales of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series, I outlined a formula that Julie Kenner seems to be following in each installment. Let’s see how Demon Ex Machina fares.

1. A demon attacks Kate in her backyard.
Check! This time the demon does not demand information about an artifact required for a ritual, but it does provide a clue by naming the demon (Odayne) dwelling and growing within Kate’s late-but-alive-again husband, Eric.

2. Scattered investigation ensues, taking a backseat to domestic plans. These will include a dinner party.
Check! Most of the “investigation” (and the book) consists of Kate sitting around whining that the only way she knows of to vanquish Odayne is to stab him with some special dagger, but doing so will take Eric along with it. A dinner party is mentioned, but not seen on camera. This time, a house-flipping project is the main domestic subplot.

3. The word “kiddo” will be used a distracting number of times.
Semi-check! It’s used a lot less than in previous volumes, but pops up occasionally.

4. Kate will angst about keeping secrets from her husband.
Check! Stuart knows most everything now, though not about the occasional smoochies Kate enjoys with Eric. Her big secret is not telling her daughter, Allie, about Eric playing host to Odayne.

5. Someone Kate cares about will be kidnapped by the demons.
Check! I almost thought it wasn’t going to happen this time but twenty pages from the end, there it was. So close!

So, yes, more of the predictable, lackluster same. As before, what I find most interesting is Stuart’s reaction to Kate’s doings. Stuart himself isn’t really much of a character, but his pain regarding Kate’s lingering feelings for Eric and his attempts to reconcile himself to her demon-hunting duties supply the most compelling emotional moments this series has to offer. Allie, too, is becoming quite the competent Hunter in her own right and the novel’s conclusion promises further development in her skills as well as a possible departure from the formula I’ve just been criticizing. I am weak against promises such as these, so I’m sure I’ll be back for more when Kenner churns out the next one.

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