Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Maggie Quinn: Girl versus Evil- Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Maggie Quinn has battled demons, Sorority House Witches, and now? She's going on vacation to South Padre Island with her best friend Lisa, a former Goth chick and witch who once accidentally summoned a demon. Lisa knows that she must atone for that act for the rest of her life, and into her next life as well, but Maggie is glad to see her and enjoy a girl's-only Spring Break when her friend/boyfriend Justin goes to spend time with his old friend Henry, who is in seminary school.

But on their way to South Padre Island, they are riding down in the wilds of Texas at Two AM when the carcass of a cow is thrown on the road in front of them. Before Maggie can react, her jeep has run the carcass over and the cow's horn has pierced the gas tank. There's also the little matter of the smell of sulfur and shining red lights that look like eyes out of the dark. Maggie, while simultaneously freaking out, puts her hand in the cow's blood and gets an image of it being attacking by... something, and more of the red eyes.

They are found on the road by Zeke, a cowboy, who helps them move the jeep to the side of the road and takes them to the nearest town, Dulcina, where they can stay at the Duck Inn for the night, and until their car is fixed. The next morning, as Maggie is ordering breakfast from the local diner, she meets Teresa, the waitress who owns the place, and the Inn. It seems that the dead cow that Maggie hit wasn't the first animal death in the area, and she's convinced that a supernatural creature called a Chupacabra, or "Goat-sucker" was responsible. But that might be a problem, as such a thing is unkillable, at least, according to Teresa.

Maggie would rather not get pulled into another supernatural case, but because she and Lisa will be stuck in town for a good long while, she decides to start looking into it, just in case. She and Lisa meet Zeke again, and get his own opinion on the case. He believes what's killing the livestock is a rogue Coyote or bobcat, maybe even a mountain lion. He doesn't believe in supernatural explanations, and neither does his grandmother, a local landowner named Doña Isabel.

While she's stuck, she and Lisa do some research on the Chupacabra, and find that there is fairly local museum/Tourist attraction that claims to have a Chupacabra skeleton, among other things (including a two-headed snake), but while she finds that the museum has a real mammoth bone, and some real indian relics, the Chupacabra is a fake, put together from a variety of animals. Disappointed, she returns to Duclina.

Meanwhile, she's been somewhat disturbed by her dreams, which have been unusually clear. The price that she pays for these dreams is always a headache on waking, but despite her dreams, she's been waking amazingly headache-free. She and Lisa soon find the reason for that- small charm bags placed between the bed's boxspring and mattress. But who could have put them there, and do they have anything to do with the Chupacabra?

More animals are dying all around, and Lisa and Zeke have been showing an unusual level of interest in each other. And between Teresa and Doña Isabel, the town is caught between trying to kill the supposed Chupacabra and taking pictures of it to make money off it, As Maggie comes to realize that the Chupacabra is evil, and has been imprisoned before but now has escaped its imprisonment, she and Lisa get roped in to the effort of trying to either re-imprison or destroy it. But what will be the price of imprisoning the Chupacabra? And can Maggie, Lisa, her boyfriend Justin (playing the Knight come to the rescue) and his friend Henry affect the outcome of this supernatural battle with evil? And will any of them survive the coming supernatural conflagration?

I read the previous Maggie Quinn book, Hell Week, and I really liked it. This one had a quicker build than Hell Week, but the tension quickly ramps up with Maggie and Lisa trying to find out more about what a "Chupacabra" is, and then determine if it is merely a natural creature, or something supernatural. In this case, it's definitely the latter, but some of the plot points didn't add up for me.

For one thing, the Chupacabra is supposedly the same creature who made a series of attacks in the 1950's (and before), and even killed a human. It's also demonic. Yet, this thing supposedly doesn't know what it needs to survive and grow stronger, which is just blood- not flesh, but blood. And that for me, just didn't add up. It's been around so long and doesn't know? I mean, this thing is literally demons, and they seem to know the route to get there- they are bad enough to try and mind-screw Maggie. And yet they don't know they need blood at first? The other was that no one else in town but Doña Isabel seemed to know or remember that much the same thing happened 60 years ago. Huh? Seems to me that something like that would really be remembered for quite a long time in town.

However, the book gets a great deal right as well. The smart, snappy dialogue is back as is the relationship with Justin, her boyfriend. I still feel a strong resemblance to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and her gang of Scoobies, though they continue to lack the "Giles" character. I really did enjoy this book and am looking forward to any sequels. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Buffy or Angel. Very well done and makes you want to read more.

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