Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper

We got hit by another big snow recently and I figured it would be the perfect time to squeeze in a much needed horror read. Which is not to say that I haven't had some great reads of late, but that sometimes a girl just needs some horror! And since Andrew Pyper's The Demonologist was freshly released and in my absolutely must read as soon as possible stack, it was pretty impeccable timing. The Demonologist was almost - just barely not - a one sitting read, folks. Had I not taken some time out to watch The Following, I would have wrapped up reading Pyper's latest that evening.

David Ullman is a father, a professor, and a husband. Though his marriage is on the rocks, his daughter is still the most important thing in his life. When a mysterious visitor offers Ullman an all-expense-paid trip to Venice, he's understandably leery. The woman in question claims that his expertise as a demonologist is needed. Ullman is not a "demonologist" but rather an English professor with a focus on literature the likes of Milton's Paradise Lost. Strangely, the woman is uninterested in Ullman's arguments. She doesn't even offer any details regarding the request. Ullman is ready to reject the offer altogether until he realizes that it might be a nice trip for him and his daughter, Tess, especially in light of the sudden news that his wife is leaving them both. But Venice turns out to be a nightmare and Tess is lost, presumed dead. Ullman believes otherwise and is dead set on saving her, even if it means making a deal with the devil himself.

The Demonologist brought to mind Dan Simmons's Song of Kali, another book about a father desperately trying to save his child. Both books are dark and chilling reads, though Pyper's tale stops short of becoming quite as shocking as Simmons's debut.

There are certainly many strong elements in The Demonologist as a whole, but two things in particular stood out for me. First is Ullman and his inner dialogue. I'm sure there's a different term for this that's much more appropriate but Ullman spends a lot of time on his own, pondering the clues he believes are set forth for him and mulling over Milton's Paradise Lost. It struck a chord for me and added an emotional depth that's missing from a lot of the more rushed horror out today.

The second thing that stood out for me were the literary references in the story. I should point out that I've never had to read Paradise Lost in any form. I do love the incorporation of literature in other fiction, however, and thought Pyper used it quite well here even for someone with very little knowledge of Milton's work.

Rumor has it The Demonologist is currently under option for film. Maybe, for once, a demon movie will actually appeal to me (they're usually at the bottom of my to watch list for the genre). After having read this one, though, I have to admit it has definite movie potential considering it's both intensely creepy and smart.

Thus far I've had the pleasure of reading just two other books by Pyper: The Killing Circle and The Guardians. Killing Circle definitely warrants a reread, but you can check out my review for Bookbitch.com in the site archives.

Rating: 4/5


Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I cannot wait to read this one; the audio is on its way to me for review!

Becky LeJeune said...

Oh, it's soooo good, Jenn! And it's a super fast read!

Lynn @ Books on the Bay said...

Oooh I'm going to have to add this to my list for a horror challenge I picked up. Sounds fantastic.