I really liked the writing, the setting, the characters, the tone and significant amounts of the plot of Murphy's debut. But, I just could not connect with the supernatural aspects of it. Since it's a Supernatural thriller/Urban fantasy, that's a pretty big problem.
Maggie Frew is a young political campaign manager -- all low-level stuff, but she's just starting out. Her parents are pretty big fish when it comes to the small pond that is Washington, D.C., but Maggie's little more than a guppy (to stretch this metaphor as far as we can). She's bouncing from campaign to campaign, year to year -- struggling to gain a little more credibility. Her colleagues -- notably the opposing candidate's manager in this book, are in the same boat, really.
She's come to Virginia to help a businessman running for a local legislature spot -- she doesn't know much about him, beyond that he's rich, clearly elderly (but won't say how old, seemingly very), and pretty unprepared for politics. He has a couple of campaign employees and an intern -- none of whom have any real business doing what they're doing. I enjoyed every character with the campaign -- they were lots of fun.
The inter- and intra-campaign antics were the best part of the book. Not only does Maggie have to wrangle with the employees, volunteers and candidate she's working for -- but a friend/romantic interest/rival (who she beat pretty soundly in her previous campaign). I ate up just about everything about the campaigns -- seriously, I'd read a half-dozen or so books about Maggie Frew, Campaign Manager.
Maggie Frew, Urban Fantasy protagonist, on the other hand -- nah. Maggie's a vessel for a demon -- she's not evil, but humans providing vessels for demons -- and getting them access to sinners to feed on -- is what keeps them from running amok and laying waste to humanity. So the Roman Catholic Church has been helping demons to have good vessels on Earth, and helping the vessels to feed. Maggie's having a rough time as a fairly new vessel, and running into people who don't think this way of dealing with demons is proper -- things ensue from there.
Murphy writes with a light and assured tone -- one that doesn't detract from both Maggie's character, or flaws, but one that communicates in an engaging, winning way. I'm not sure we see a lot of growth in the principal characters, but the others grow a lot (and Maggie does grow in a few ways, I should stress).
I really can't put my finger on why the supernatural material didn't click with me -- I've argued myself out of every theory I've cooked up, but it didn't. I can easily see where this would work for other readers -- there are going to be plenty of readers who call this a sure-fire pleaser. But I'm not one, sadly. Would I read more by Murphy? In a heartbeat -- just probably not something in this series. I liked the writing and the humor, just not the way she used them.
Disclaimer: I received this from the author in exchange for this post -- thanks!