The second book in an urban fantasy series where the main character is a modern day samurai.

Publication year: 2011
Format: print
Page count: 306
Publisher: Roc

Jesse Dawson is a champion. When someone has made a deal with a demon and contacts Jesse, he can make another deal, with his own soul as the collateral. The demons’ physical bodies don’t have vital points, like a human body, so Jesse needs a bladed weapon to fight them. However, Jesse’s not alone: he’s part of a network of Champions who share information when it’s needed. Old Ukrainian Champion Ivan Zelenko has brought the Champions together even though they work alone and in different parts of the world.

Jesse is happily married to Mira and they have a daughter which is quite a departure from other UF books and I liked that. Even though Jesse hates demons, he’s on speaking terms with one of them. Axel appears when he wants to and sometimes gives Jesse information. He has quite a big role in this book.

A Shot in the Dark is quite different in tone and structure than the first one, A Devil in the Details. While the first one was solidly an urban fantasy, this one has more horror elements.

The males of the Dawson family and their friends have a yearly retreat in a mountain cabin in Colorado. Jesse, his brother Cole, his best friend Will, his friend Marty, the cabin owner Oscar, and Oscar’s teenaged son are going to the cabin to get away from the world and to shoot paint balls at each other. But this time, they have an addition to the group. Jesse’s doctor and good friend has a new boyfriend Cameron and the good doctor pressures Jesse into taking Cameron to the retreat. They also have to take Marty’s mastiff Duke who turns out to be extremely useful.

However, once the group gets to the mountain, Axel warns Jesse to leave immediately. But Jesse can’t just leave his friends and soon they are all trapped into the cabin with bloodthirsty monsters all around.

The start of the book is quite slow with the Dawson family barbecue and then the long car trip to the mountains. The action doesn’t really start until about 100 pages in but then it’s very intense and the book’s mood changes abruptly from light-hearted to horror. Even though Jesse’s friends know intellectually that demons exist, they haven’t ever met one. Still, when they are threatened, they quickly accept that demons are real and concentrate on staying alive. There’s some tension between the characters, too, so it’s not all “us vs. them” mentality.

I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters and Duke was a real delight. We find out that there’s a far larger plot moving beneath.

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