The Demon Club (Ben Hope #22), by Scott Mariani

Eight stars

Back for another tale in the Ben Hope series, Scott Mariani has again succeeded in keeping the momentum going. This series, which always seems to have something new to add, provides thrills and entertainment, as well as a few twists to keep the story sharp. Who doesn’t love a demonic cult of rich men? Sure to impress series fans and those looking for a well-paced thriller.

Jaden Wolf’s been given a mission to exterminate a man with a sizeable bank account that accompanies his stellar reputation. Wolf’s scouted him out and follows the prominent fellow to a rural part of England, only to stumble upon some sort of ritualistic event that ends in the sacrificial offering of a young woman. He’s got it on video, but only realises after the fact that his presence has also been caught on film, forcing him to flee.

After returning from a romantic weekend, Ben Hope is eager to see if this new belle might be someone worth keeping around. However, his thought processes are interrupted when someone approaches him on one of his flights back to France with a mission, find and kill Jaden Wolf. Otherwise, a certain ‘lady friend’ will be killed. Hope knows that he cannot risk the life of an innocent woman, so he reluctantly agrees.

Hope traces Wolf to the outskirts of a Spanish village, remembering how they served together in the SAS. Wolf was a sly soldier and so Hope will have to use all his wits, if it means getting this done quickly and without making any waves. However, once Hope and Wolf come head to head, the truth is revealed about what the latter witnessed, forcing Hope to reconsider his extermination contract.

All the while, Hope’s two associates learn what’s been going on and go into full protection mode, travelling to Scotland to aid a lass from being murdered. This, in turn, takes much of the pressure off Hope and leaves him able to focus on the task at hand, learning more about this ritualistic group. It turns out, its members are all important figures in the British social community and one has penned a tell-all book, but not before being killed himself.

It will be up to Wolf and Hope to learn more about The Pandemonium Club—as they call themselves—and the rules of their game. This could be the only way to truly end the demonic acts these men perform, masked and robed in the dead of night. However, it will be no walk in the park, but more a stroll through the depths of Hell!

Scott Mariani has never failed to keep me entertained with one of his Ben Hope novels. Mixing the thrill of the hunt with some educational aspects of lesser-known groups, the reader is always treated to something well worth their while. While the series is well-established, this being the 22nd novel, things have never waned to the point of overdoing it, as can be said for some series that stretch well past their best-before date.

Ben Hope returns for more protagonist fun. He’s always eager to show off his brains and brawn, though does toss in a little character development on occasion as well. Eager to take on a mission that will leave him vulnerable, Hope knows what it means to stand up against the forces of evil, no matter whose hiding in the shadows. Still, he is less reckless than one might expect, but makes up for it with a great deal of grit.

With a mix of recurring characters and those who are new to the Hope sphere, Mariani uses his supporting characters effectively. The story rests on interactions and narrative momentum that is fuelled by well-established secondary characters. One learns a great deal about Hope’s past, as well as his determination, though the actions of those who grace the pages of the book. Mariani keeps the banter and jokes coming with them, but also injects the needed evil aspects to keep the plot from going stale.

The story itself was entertaining, even if it might not have been entirely unique. A demonic cult of wealthy men with a core sentiment driving them has a way of grabbing the reader’s interest. While Ben Hope is an acquired taste for some, I have come to like the stories, eager when I hear that a new one is on the way. With a mix of short and longer chapters, I can rely on being pulled into the middle of a worthwhile plot and kept wondering until all is revealed. The attentive reader will also see great connections to other books in the series, without rehashing everything at the beginning of each novel. Highly entertaining and perfect for this time of year, which has proven to be very hectic for me.

Kudos, Mr. Mariani, for another winner. I am happy to find that you can still lure me in with your ideas.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: