Reading Christopher Moore's first novel, Practical Demonkeeping, is like climbing into a car having no idea where you are going but knowing you're going to have a great trip.
Moore has a gift for weaving a whole bunch of disparate characters into the fabric of the story and allowing them to unfold with wry wit. I found myself marking page after page for great lines and humorous observations.
Travis as spent a deceptively long lifetime dealing with the demon Catch, a short, stout, scaly demon whose countenance changes when he feeds — and who remains invisible until that time.
Jenny is a 29-year-old a waitress who has just left her husband, Robert, a sorry besotted lovesick waif.
Robert is staying with The Breeze, a drug dealer whose actual face time is shorter than his story arc, and encountering way too many new faces — including the face of a man in his dreams, a man making love with his wife.
Then there's Augustus Brine, the elderly owner of a tackle and convenience store who knows his true calling is that of a madam, who encounters Gian Hen Gian, a small Arabic man who consumes his weight in salt every day.
Effrom, a World War I vet, is lost without his wife Amanda, who chose this week to visit their daughter and leave him to deal with insurance salesmen looking for her.
Billy Winston lives a double life, one of which includes red high heels and motel accounting.
Howard is convinced that aliens walk among us, and just happens to be fluent in Greek (which comes in handy).
Rivera wants to nail The Breeze or he will have to trade in his policeman's badge for the smock of a Slurpy-server at the local 7-Eleven.
Rachael is the high priestess of Pagan Vegetarians for Peace, beautiful and dangerous, with a past no one could imagine.
Mavis runs the Head of the Slug, keeps an eye on the downtrodden around her town and, thankfully, can handle a firearm.
Author Christopher Moore has a way with people. Fictional people, that is. Each of these characters is lovingly described with a candor many authors cannot sustain. Each has a role to in this passion play, only it never is what the reader expects. Flour bombs? Suitcases? Telephoto lenses? Computer conversations? All this and more are woven into this tale.
One night, the dogs won’t stop barking. The next day, Travis and Catch limp into town with a broken radiator and the uncanny ability to play pool better than the town expert. Robert, who is spending his last dollars drowning his sorrows, encounters the man of his dreams, so to speak, and is flabbergasted when the man’s car winds up in his — well, Jenny’s driveway.
Meanwhile, the enlightened Augustus Brine encounters someone who tells him what will happen in Pine Cove if he doesn’t act to change the course of the town’s future.
As night falls and the people of Pine Cove discover just how terrible the night can be, all hell breaks loose. It’s not just Robert’s unfortunate choice of luggage, or Augustus forgetting that fuses of different lengths detonate at different times. It’s not just Jenny’s first date in a decade and Travis’ first in a lifetime. It’s not Mavis with her tape recorder, or Rachel with her discovery of what she thinks is an invisible earth god. It’s not just Billy seeing Catch (which is never a good thing) or Augustus learning about demons, Djinn and Solomon. It’s all that and more.
I laughed, I cheered, I gasped, I chuckled, I was surprised and delighted. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and heartily recommend it to readers with a sense of humor and affection for the slapstick and the far-fetched. I can’t wait to read Fluke and Lamb (both of which Carole recommends and the latter of which, if I remember correctly from my quick glance, involved Jesus resurrecting a lizard killed repeatedly by his little brother — how can I lose?).