Sympathy For The Devil
Published 2011 477 pages
Summary (from the book jacket)
Senator Howard Stark wants to be President of the United States. So does the demon inside him. With the competing candidates dropping out due to scandal, blackmail, and ‘accidental’ death, Stark looks like a good bet to go all the way to the White House. And if he gets there, Hell on Earth will follow.
Occult investigator Quincey Morris and white witch Libby Chastain are determined to stop this evil conspiracy. But between them and Stark stand the dedicated agents of the US Secret Service – as well as the very forces of Hell itself. Quincey and Libby will risk everything to exorcise the demon possessing Stark. If they fail, ‘Hail to the Chief’ will become a funeral march – for all of us.
Sympathy For The Devil is the third novel in the Morris and Chastain Investigation fantasy series by Justin Gustainis. For those readers not familiar with this series, the books follow the investigative efforts of white witch Libby Chastain and supernatural “consultant” Quincey Morris. Yes, Dracula fans – this is Quincey P. Morris’ great- great- grandson – who is following the established career plan for generations of Morris men, that of ghost buster and vampire slayer. That family vampire connection is a close as this story gets to vampires though; Sympathy For The Devil focuses firmly on demons and demon possessed humans (not a big surprise given the book’s title.)
Sympathy For The Devil works well as a stand alone story and can easily be read on its own without readers needing to be familiar with the previous series instalments. I think this is in part because the author constructs the Morris and Chastain books in a similar manner to the way modern thrillers are written, with multiple points of view, fast-paced perspective changes and minimal fantasy world build building. This is in contrast to most urban fantasy novels which are often written in first person perspective with highly complex fantasy mythologies that build up over the course of five plus novels – highly enjoyable but generally not conducive to drop-in readers.
Overall Sympathy For The Devil is a highly enjoyable supernatural thriller. The story follows Quincey and Libby from the events leading up to their discovery that a demon (Sargatanas) is possessing a US Presidential candidate through to their big plan to kidnap the senator and send the demon back to hell. The demon possession story line is a good one, and features the standard (real world) religious rites of exorcism as well as fantasy elements such as black and white magic. The demon’s evil influence is felt throughout the story with a host of nasty murders and bad things happening to his opposition. Sargatanas prefers using mundane human murder and political dirty tricks rather than magic to clear his path to the White House. He enlists political advisors to do his dirty work for him – but then again, isn’t the corruption of humans the whole point of demons?
My only gripe with this book is noticeably poor copy editing throughout the story – I can live with missing speech marks and occasional character called by the wrong name but there is some timeline confusion that has a bigger impact. The date of Senator Stark’s original demon possession just doesn’t add up consistently throughout the story. At one point he was possessed a couple of months ago, then in the middle of the story it’s 18 months ago (I know time flies when you’re having fun but where did that time go?) and then at the end of the story it’s 15 months ago. However, feel free to ignore my niggles, it’s a fairly small price to pay for an otherwise great read
The story’s fast-pacing is guaranteed to hook readers in while an interesting selection of supporting characters gives the story depth and makes it more than just an action driven fantasy thrill-fest. Sympathy For The Devil has plenty of potential to entertain both thriller and urban fantasy fans alike. It is also recommended reading for fans of the Supernatural TV show who should enjoy this tale of demon hunting – although Libby and Quincey have a very different approach to the task than Sam and Dean.
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