|+| Warnings: Violence, multiple deaths including suicide |+|
“The trap had been set. Now I had only to spring it.” ~Harry
Author: Kat Ross
Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery, Historical Fiction
Synopsis: It’s August of 1888, just three weeks before Jack the Ripper will begin his grisly spree in the London slum of Whitechapel, and another serial murderer is stalking the gas-lit streets of New York. With taunting messages in backwards Latin left at the crime scenes and even more inexplicable clues like the fingerprints that appear to have been burned into one victim’s throat, his handiwork bears all the hallmarks of a demonic possession.
But consulting detective Harrison Fearing Pell is convinced her quarry is a man of flesh and blood. Encouraged by her uncle, Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry hopes to make her reputation by solving the bizarre case before the man the press has dubbed Mr. Hyde strikes again.
From the squalor of the Five Points to the high-class gambling dens of the Tenderloin and the glittering mansions of Fifth Avenue, Harry and her best friend, John Weston, follow the trail of a remorseless killer, uncovering a few embarrassing secrets of New York’s richest High Society families along the way. Are the murders a case of black magic—or simple blackmail? And will the trail lead them closer to home than they ever imagined?
My Opinion: This is how you do historical fiction. Ross seamlessly wove historical elements into the story keeping it realistic, while never beating the reader over the head with it. The characters are well fleshed out. There are so many unique elements here (including an incredibly unique reference to Sherlock). There are just one or two things that I would have liked to see more of and sometimes the pacing felt a little slow for my liking. Over all, I loved this book and can’t wait to dive into the sequel! 4.5 stars.
My biggest issues with the book were some ableist dialogue towards the end and the off pacing in one or two parts. There was a couple of incidences that made me uncomfortable simply because of the way mental illnesses were talked about. While it was a bummer, it wasn’t enough to make me stop reading because the book already had so many great things in it. The other issue was pacing. For the most part the pacing was spot on. There was one part towards the start and then again towards the middle where I felt like things were going a little too slowly. In each of these parts our heroine and narrator, Harry, was waiting on something. So in this case this could very much be a a case of great writing where the reader really feels what the heroine is feeling or a me thing.
On to what I loved. If my previous reviews are anything to go by, I really want a story where I can fall in love with the characters and watch them grow. This book delivered on this front. The characters were all unique and I loved seeing Harry’s relationship with everyone, especially John and Collin. I found that all the characters together helped each other shine. Usually I feel a bit bummed after reading a book with a great cast because the minor characters don’t feel as fleshed out. I honestly can’t find a thing to complain about as far as the cast of characters and the characterization of each one goes. Each character was interesting, played an important role, or lead to more twists in the mystery. I also really liked the relationship between Harry and her sister, Myrtle, as well as their relationship with Moran. There’s a lot to be built upon here for the sequels.
As I said, the characters really helped move the mystery forward. The mystery overall was well balanced. We have two opposing sides here, John’s idea that the serial murders taking place are the act of someone who is possessed by a demonic entity. Despite wanting to be a part of the Society for Psychical Research, a paranormal investigative group, Harry doesn’t believe in the supernatural. Throughout the story we see evidence pointing both ways and yet never forced into one side or the other. I really like it when a book can pull that off. But what impressed me so much was the fact that this story is as much about the mystery of the paranormal as it is the mystery of the serial killer. It was very well done, and I felt like I was never beaten over the head with either mystery as both were combined into one.
I love historical fiction but I find that it’s usually very whitewashed unless the story is by an #ownvoices author. There’s also the issue of a lot of racial slurs because “it’s accurate.” I’ve never liked that excuse and it always makes the reading experience uncomfortable for me. In The Daemoniac Ross did a lovely job of avoiding racist dialogue and putting in organic diversity. While I would have loved to have seen more diversity, there was a mixed-race couple who was portrayed very positively and some diversity as well. This is so rare and it was well done to boot so I was extremely happy.
All in all, historical fiction with some diversity, a lovely mystery and unique characters made The Daemoniac a fantastic read. The world building just sealed the deal. History and the paranormal blended together so well and made the history geek in me so happy. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.
TL;DR: If you’re a fan of historical fiction and are looking for a good mystery, start with The Daemoniac. An authentic world, detailed and interesting characters, as well as a strong mystery really makes Roth an author to invest in. I really do recommend this book, especially if you’re a mystery or historical fiction fan. Best of both worlds right here.