Tanya Huff,
Summon the Keeper
(DAW, 1998)

Claire Hansen was only seeking shelter from the storm. Now she's the new owner of a ramshackle guesthouse in Kingston, Ontario. The previous proprietor, Augustus Smythe, has vanished, leaving behind his deplorable taste in decor.

Soon, Claire learns that Evil Incarnate, named Sara and covered in dust, is sleeping upstairs. There's an open (but shielded) hole to Hell in the basement. The attic is a mess, but is tastefully furnished and haunted by the ghost of an amorous French-Canadian sailor. Dean, the naive but earnest young Newfoundlander who cooks and cleans, has discovered too many of Claire's secrets. There's a nosy neighbor with a very annoying big dog. And Austin, Claire's 17-year-old black-and-white cat, is saying a lot more than he should.

Fortunately, Claire is a Keeper, and she thinks she knows what to do. At least, she will once she calls her mom....

It's an auspicious beginning to Tanya Huff's Summon the Keeper, a modern fantasy with enough bits of horror, mixed-up romance, low-key comedy and outright guffaws to keep most readers engrossed. The succession of guests -- including a vampire/nightclub singer, a pair of identical werewolves, a tour group of retired Olympian deities, and a medium-grade medium -- keeps the story fun throughout, even as the bickering voices from Hell try to break free of their bindings. Then there's a Halloween night like no other. And Claire's sister comes to visit.

Summon the Keeper is a delightful book, impossible to put down once the action gets rolling. Huff has a keen grasp of character, and she manages the difficult trick of balancing real suspense with humor. Pick up a copy, but be sure to have a few hours free when you settle down to read.

[ by Tom Knapp ]

Buy it from Amazon.com.