This is the third volume in Carolyn Weston’s series of police procedurals, starring a pair of San Francisco detectives, though it’s worth mentioning that they don’t have to be read in order. Weston’s series—well, the first novel, Poor Poor Ophelia—was the inspiration for the classic procedural series The Streets of San Francisco. Weston was not a prolific author, and these three novels constitute the bulk of her published works; I can’t seem to find a complete bibliography, though Rouse the Demon seems to be her last publication.
San Francisco detectives Casey Kellogg and Al Krug roll into the strangest murder case in a long while. A controversial therapist named Stephen Myrick has been bludgeoned to death in his own home, with someone using a statuette of a medieval knight to crack his head open like an egg. Some taped recordings of his sessions are found to be erased—someone covering up a condemning admission, perhaps? And Myrick’s list of patients offers plenty of potential suspects: using hypnotism and mesmerism, Myrick had claimed to solve everything from obesity to drug addiction. And his methods appear to have been effective, too, causing several juvie drug-addicts to break clean from their addiction. One of them—a psychotic young woman—is missing. And a love nest hidden in his attic hints that Myrick’s got a secret lover, yet another potential witness or suspect. Kellogg and Krug have their work cut out for them, especially if they want to stop future killings now that Myrick has roused a demon…
In the previous books in the series, Weston introduced a sympathetic suspect, someone with good depth and characterization as another point-of-view character. It was one of the first two novels’ strengths, from the character depth and from the added tension and complexity of following someone who seems innocent but may not be. This one loses that element; the closest would be Myrick’s secretarial assistant, a handicapped woman who has flashbacks to how she met Myrick and became involved with his studies. Maybe it’s because it lacks that content from a point-of-view suspect, but Rouse the Demon is a noticeably shorter novel, clocking in around 180 pages. That brevity doesn’t make it feel rushed, as the plot moves at a steady clip, but it doesn’t seem to have the same length and complexity as its predecessors.
Otherwise, the novel has all the things that made the previous two novels such fun reads. The setting has a very distinct San Francisco feel to it; the 1970s prove a fascinating setting for a mystery novel, especially as Krug and Kellogg are on two sides of a culture gap. Really, the pairing of these two characters is one of the things that makes the novels interesting, though their characterization can be rather muted at times. Kellogg is a surfer dude, college-educated, sharp, young and idealistic. Krug is a World War II vet, who earned his detective’s badge through hard work and dedication; he’s not much for book-learning, putting more stock in experience, and is very old-fashioned with his prejudices against everyone, from the wealthy to men with long hair. On a case like this one, with a mesmerist wrapped up in juvie drug-addicts, Kellogg has to know when to keep his mouth shut so as not to irritate his partner.
Rouse the Demon is shorter and less extensive compared to its two predecessors, but continues to ride on their strengths: sharp characterization, good plotting, and an excellent setup. While there’s less room for interplay between the two starring detectives, there’s still a lot going on in this novel, and the pacing is a perfect pairing to the many plot developments. I’d probably recommend the first two Krug and Kellogg novels before it, but Rouse the Demon is a fun police procedural that should prove entertaining to many mystery readers.
Title: Rouse the Demon
Author: Carolyn Weston
Publisher: Brash Books
Release Date: 1 September 2015
What I Read: ebook
Price I Paid: $0 (eARC via Netgalley)
ISBN/ASIN: 0316216828 / B00Y416TCE
First published: 1976