A single attorney in downstate Illinois, Samuel Roberts should be comfortable tending to his garden, serving his clients, and spending time with the love of his life. But based on a case readers learned about in Scott A. Lerner’s first book, Cocaine Zombies, Samuels has reason to look over his shoulder and eye with suspicion the black crows that seem to alight wherever he goes.
“In short, I am afraid I might be a magnet for the forces of darkness,” says Sam, the main character in Lerner’s recent novel, Ruler of Demons.
Sam seems to be right. A law school acquaintance beckons him to Chicago to meet with attorneys for a high-powered but low-profile firm that was aware of his prior work with the supernatural. Soon he’s seated in a luxe conference room with not only one of the law firm’s founders, Mr. Smart, but also a private investigator, a Catholic priest, and a cardinal.
Sam has been called upon to investigate three gruesome murders in Chicago, Jerusalem, and Paris. The victims were nuns, and they appeared to have been killed in some kind of ritual. Smart plans to send Sam to learn what he can from a history professor, a rabbi, and an archaeologist to piece together who is behind the killings and stop them before another person is sacrificed.
So begins Sam’s crash course in satanic cults and an ancient scroll containing instructions for summoning Satan. It appears the nuns were the first, but not the final, of those to be sacrificed. And the last sacrifice, according to the ancient text, is to occur on December 20, just nine days away.
Reluctant at first, Sam concedes to take on the job after a few days mulling it over and experiencing a little jolt back home in Urbana. Joined by his friend Bob, he travels to New York, Jerusalem, and Paris, working against the deadline to prevent more murders. They try to remain skeptical, nonbelievers despite their past brush with the supernatural. But they soon realize that someone—from this world or the netherworld—is trying to thwart their mission, and they have to rely on quick thinking and physical strength along with their sleuthing skills.
Ruler of Demons is creepy and fast-paced, with a few thrilling twists to keep the reader up at night. It’s also sprinkled with the kind of humor one hears in a police procedural show, the wisecracks one imagines veteran cops make. They may not be the most realistic bits of dialogue, but the blurb on the back cover gives a good idea of the wild-ride tone of the novel: “Only eleven shopping days till Christmas. And less than a week to save the world.”
Lerner, who actually is an attorney in Champaign, Illinois, won a bronze medal in the mystery/cozy/noir category of the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards for Cocaine Zombies, and his second novel is a fun ride as well.
May 2014, Camel Press
$13.95, paperback, 202 pages
—Reviewed by Paige Fumo Fox
Learn more about the author and his books.