I picked up Diana Rowland's debut (before the challenge actually, but I hadn't had a chance to read it) thanks to the fact that it takes place in Louisiana. Yes, that was a major deciding factor for me. In fact, I think I saw Louisiana in the cover copy and didn't even read any further because when I grabbed it for the challenge I couldn't even remember anything about the description.
Yep, true confession of a junkie.
In the book, Kara Gillian, a detective with the Beaulac PD, has snagged her first major case: The Symbol Man. It's been three years since the last Symbol Man body was found and back then Kara was only a street cop. She's been obsessed with solving the case for years, though, thanks to her talent as a summoner and has become the resident expert on the files. See Kara is one of few who can communicate with demons from another plane. The thing about the Symbol Man case is that Kara can feel the arcane magic that surrounds the victims, so she knows that the killer is someone who shares at least some of her knowledge of summoning. What she doesn't know is who he is or what his ultimate goal is. Kara is joined by FBI agent Ryan Kristoff, a man who's specialty is in investigating ritual murders. Kara will be have to careful not to let too much of her knowledge of the arcane slip unless she wants her fellow authorities to start looking to her as a possible suspect.
I thought this was a pretty promising debut. First, as Charlaine Harris pointed out, it's a great mix of police procedural and urban fantasy, so a great blend of paranormal and mystery. I love that it's a darker book as well, along the lines of Allison Brennan's latest, Original Sin (I definitely recommend checking out both -- I think this is definitely a case where if you like one you'll like the other and then you'll have two new authors to add to your collections!). I did find that Kara comes across a little young in some spots, and by this I mean a little greener than her years of experience on the force might make her. But I also thought it was an endearing quality in the character as well: she's a kind of fun with an attitude and a penchant for donuts.
The second book in Diana Rowland's Kara Gillian series is due out later this month (Blood of the Demon, Feb 23). I'd suggest running to your local bookstore and grabbing both at the same time. I definitely did not want Mark of the Demon to end when I turned the last page!