The demonologist of the title is Prof. David Ullman, who does not consider himself a demon specialist but rather a Milton scholar specializing in ‘Paradise Lost’. At the end of the school term, he is looking forward to a dinner with his best friend, Prof. Jane O’Brian, and then spending time with his 11 year old daughter, Tess. But before he can get out of his office, a thin woman, with colorless skin and a smell of the earth, urges him to accept a job: take a trip to Venice and witness something. All expenses paid. He rejects the offer, and hurries off. But when his friend gives him bad news, and his unfaithful wife gives him bad news on his arrival home, he changes his mind and takes Tess to Venice. While there, he witnesses a strange phenomenon, and his daughter falls from the roof of the hotel in the Venetian canals, body not found, presumed downed and swept away. The rest of the book is his quest to find the daughter he is sure is still alive, but held by beings he formerly thought were figments of the imagination. The journey takes him all around North America and into his past.
It reminded me of a somewhat more literate Da Vinci Code: the professor who suddenly is thrust into the role of both sleuth and action hero, what with the clues he must figure out to get to the next stage and the race against time before his daughter is lost to him forever. It’s a tense journey.
The book is not without its flaws. It gets boring in some stretches. The characters don’t have a great amount of depth; even David, whose past is explored during the journey, remains more opaque than I wanted. O’Brian is the person that I would have liked to have found out more about; she remains a flat character, a useful sacrifice in the quest. As a strong woman with nothing to lose, I expected more from her. But despite these flaws, the book is worth reading. The demon is the classic kind, not the romantic kind that falls in love with a human and turns his back on evil; that’s kind of refreshing these days.
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