Camille Bacon-Smith,
Eyes of the Empress
(DAW, 1998)

The premise of Camille Bacon-Smith's Eyes of the Empress is intriguing: a Philadelphia detective agency consisting of two demons in human form and one of the demons' half-human son tracking stolen works of art. The execution, however, is tepid, if readable.

He calls himself Kevin Bradley, and others call him Brad, but in reality, he is the demon Badad of the host of Ariton. He has little use for humans, but at one time in his past, he unwillingly fathered a child on a human woman. As half-human and half-demon, the son, Evan, has the potential to completely disrupt the seven spheres of heaven. Badad has a choice: he can kill Evan or he can remain in the material world and keep an eye on Evan. Another demon, Lirion, joins him in this second task, appearing in the material world as Lily Ryan, a partner in the agency and Evan's lover.

In the wake of several art heists, the agency is hired to check a museum's security system and possibly prevent a theft, but the museum is robbed on the night Brad begins the check. Worse, he finds himself the prime suspect.

Primary among the stolen objects are three large crystal balls. As the investigation takes its twists and turns, it is revealed that the crystals were taken not for their monetary value but because together they are a source of power. Since this kind of power is enough to destroy the universe as we know it, including at least several spheres of heaven, it is in the interest of everyone, mortal or otherwise, to find them.

The plot has potential, but every five pages or so the reader is reminded of Evan's condition as a tortured captive when Brad found him in the book previous to this one, the second in the series. In fact, this title is so full of spoilers that there is little point in going back to the first one, if you haven't already read it.

It's readable but not all that compelling; you find yourself wishing that Brad and Evan would just get over themselves and get on with things. It's hard to feel much sympathy for such thinly drawn, shallow characters who take themselves entirely too seriously. Pick it up if the idea of demon detectives still intrigues you, but there are better ways to spend your time.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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