With over a dozen novels to his credit, Rick R. Reed is on his way to becoming a name-brand. I’d be jealous if his stuff wasn’t so damn solid, but it is. The last book of his I read was Bashed: A Love Story, which both I and the hard-to-please members of The Denver Gay Men’s Book Club loved, and I’m pleased to report that Reed hasn’t lost his touch. His haunted house story, A Demon Inside, thrills, delights and entertains just as his fans have come to expect.
After the loss of his beloved grandmother, Hunter Beaumont becomes the last living member of his rich Chicago family. That legacy includes witnessing the murder of his parents, but along with those nightmare-inducing memories comes riches galore and Beaumont House, a spooky old Wisconsin mansion. Hunter ignores his grandmother’s dying wish to tear the mansion down. After a disastrous love affair with a man who steals a good deal of his inheritance, he decides to use the rest to renovate the house and retreat there to lick his wounds.
One of Reed’s greatest strengths is his ability to create wonderful characters that follow genre conventions but also defy them in some basic respects, and Hunter Beaumont is no exception. Sheltered and gullible, he’s also itching to try out his new freedom. But even though his initial experience with love is shattering and embittering, he’s persuaded to try again with his second love interest, a handsome young man named Michael who lives on the property next door. Will that affair succeed? Of course it will. And will pluckiness and sheer nerve be enough to rid Beaumont House of the demon inside? Ah, that you’ll have to read to find out.
The only minor complaint I have is the fortune-hunting doctor we meet early on. He is such a presence early in the book that I kept looking over my shoulder, anticipating his return in the last half and wondering what role he’d play in the denouement. I kept looking for some connection between him and Michael, but that never materialized. The fact that he never showed up again was somewhat disappointing, but that’s picking nits.
A Demon Inside is a rip-snorter of a read with enough spooky scenes, chilling night-time visitations and cackling, otherworldly laughter to put a few shadows into even the warmest, safest summer night. You don’t have to wait for Halloween to get your chills – start the scaring season early with the ever-dependable Rick R. Reed.
Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler