A stolen child.
An ancient evil.
A father’s descent.
And the literary masterpiece that holds the key to his daughter’s salvation.
Professor David Ullman is among the world’s leading authorities on demonic literature, with special expertise in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Not that David is a believer—he sees what he teaches as a branch of the imagination and nothing more. So when the mysterious Thin Woman arrives at his office and invites him to travel to Venice and witness a “phenomenon,” he turns her down. She leaves plane tickets and an address on his desk, advising David that her employer is not often disappointed.
That evening, David’s wife announces she is leaving him. With his life suddenly in shambles, he impulsively whisks his beloved twelve-year-old daughter, Tess, off to Venice after all. The girl has recently been stricken by the same melancholy moods David knows so well, and he hopes to cheer her up and distract them both from the troubles at home.
But what happens in Venice will change everything.
First, in a tiny attic room at the address provided by the Thin Woman, David sees a man restrained in a chair, muttering, clearly insane . . . but could he truly be possessed? Then the man speaks clearly, in the voice of David’s dead father, repeating the last words he ever spoke to his son. Words that have left scars—and a mystery—behind.
When David rushes back to the hotel, he discovers Tess perched on the roof’s edge, high above the waters of the Grand Canal. Before she falls, she manages to utter a final plea: Find me.
What follows is an unimaginable journey for David Ullman from skeptic to true believer. In a terrifying quest guided by symbols and riddles from the pages of Paradise Lost, David must track the demon that has captured his daughter and discover its name. If he fails, he will lose Tess forever.
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Reading Group Guide
The Demonologist – Reading Group Questions
Discuss your initial reaction to the first page of the novel (Tess’s “real dream”). Did your feelings about this passage change as you read the rest of the novel? If so, how, and why?
In the opening pages, David argues to his students that to read Paradise Lost is to know that “hell is real. Not as a fiery pit, not a place above or below but in us, a place in the mind. To know ourselves and, in turn, to endure the perpetual reminder of our solitude” (6). Do you agree with this definition of hell?
David has cultivated a career in contradictions: “an atheist biblical scholar. A demon expert who believes evil to be a manmade invention ... My justification for these apparent contradictions is that there are some things that bear meaning, culturally speaking, without actually existing. The Devil, angels. Heaven. Hell. They are part of our lives even if we never have and never will see them, touch them, prove them to be real” (7). To support his position, David quotes Milton: “The mind is its own place, and in it self / Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” Discuss how this passage foreshadows the events to come. Do you think that David’s hell exists in the tangible world? Or is a product see more