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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Hardcover 9781451697520(4.8 MB)
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Reading Group Guide
A Conversation with Andrew Pyper
Q: Your main character, David Ullman, is a literature professor who specializes in Milton’s Paradise Lost. How familiar were you with that text before you started writing The Demonologist? How did you use that poem to help shape the plot and events in your novel?
I'd read Paradise Lost as an undergrad at university, but remembered little about it. No, not true: I remembered few details, but carried with me with the persuasive arguments and pitiable dilemma of its arguable protagonist, Satan. For the stretches when he is its speaker, I found the poem electrifying, almost dangerous in its charms. But when the devil is off-stage, I remember feeling it was a bit of a slog. At the time, I would have agreed with Dr. Johnson's assessment that "None ever wished it longer."
Jump ahead twenty years, and I'm a novelist. (I'm also a father – this will become significant in a moment). For some time, I'd been pondering a way to create a new kind of demonic mythology in a work of fiction, one without priests or exorcisms or scalding holy water or the usual trappings of a "possession" story. I wanted to imagine a narrative that made demons seem grounded and real – a plausible explanation for why some people, some of the time, act in the irrational ways they do. To achieve this, the relationship between the human and demonic actors in the story would have to be at see more