“Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth Unseen, both when we wake and when we sleep.”
– John Milton, PARADISE LOST
David Ullman, Columbia University Professor of Ancient --- specifically Demonic --- literature, knows this passage well. In fact, he can quote all of Milton’s infamous work verbatim. He clearly understands the symbolism and passages that are extracted straight out of the Bible and recounted from Satan’s point of view.
The ironic thing is that David does not believe in demons. In fact, he does not believe in much of anything and is a world-renowned atheist. He has thrown himself into his work and research so much that most of his personal relationships have fallen apart; his wife is having an affair and planning to divorce him. The only human beings David is able to confide in are his 12-year-old daughter, Tess, and fellow professor Elaine O’Brien, who is terminally ill with cancer.
"With THE DEMONOLOGIST, Andrew Pyper has created a truly blood-curdling work that will have readers looking over their shoulders and on edge from beginning to end."
An atheist biblical scholar is quite a dichotomy, and some may call David a hypocrite. His lack of belief has made him an easy target for critics and jealous colleagues. Little does he know that he has also piqued the interest of an ancient evil --- an evil that wants to use him as its demonic ambassador in proclaiming the text of Milton’s classic work to be the “gospel” truth.
A strange and dreadfully thin woman approaches David at his office one day with a gift of two round-trip tickets to Venice, Italy, and an address he needs to visit while there. Seeking escape from his crumbling marriage, he seizes the opportunity to take his daughter along with him on a sight-seeing tour of Venice. While there, he leaves Tess behind at their hotel for a few hours as he seeks out the address the strange woman gave him. It is when he is ushered into the basement of a Venice home that he comes face to face with pure evil. A man, who he recognizes as an Italian scholar he once met, is tied to a chair and literally speaking in tongues. The unsettling experience shakes David to the core, and he rushes back to his hotel with the intention of leaving Venice immediately. While packing his bags, he loses sight of Tess, who he discovers has climbed to the roof of the hotel and watches as she dives into the canal below. The last words he claims to have heard from her are “Find me.”
What follows is the fevered wanderings of a man pushed to the brink of sanity. The ancient evil warned him that he had only six days to uncover the signs to free his daughter, or he will lose her forever. This demonic trek finds David traveling the United States --- following signs only he can interpret and drawing on his knowledge of Milton’s work --- in an effort to beat the clock and rescue Tess from a dark place he does not understand. Along the way, he will come directly in contact with evil in all forms and may not escape with his soul intact. David realizes that the evil must be one of Satan’s minions, one of the 12 demons that make up his own unholy tribunal. Putting a name to this demon is important because, if he chooses incorrectly, all may be lost.
With THE DEMONOLOGIST, Andrew Pyper has created a truly blood-curdling work that will have readers looking over their shoulders and on edge from beginning to end. Whereas other classics in the genre have focused on battling evil, this novel seeks to understand the very nature of evil from its origins. The fact that he is able to breathe life into the book’s plausibility creates an unsettling feeling and completely satisfying horror read without ever becoming clichéd in the process.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on March 15, 2013