David Ullman is a Columbia professor specializing in John Milton’s Paradise Lost. He has also battled a strange feeling of melancholy his entire life, and he is realizing that his preteen daughter, Tess, shares that battle.
When a strange woman comes to his office with an offer to simply observe an “ongoing case,” a “phenomenon,” David turns down the opportunity even though it pays an exorbitant sum. But after his wife announces that very night that she is leaving him, David decides to take Tess and go to Venice, location of this mystery “case,” and just have fun there together that weekend.
The trip to Venice is wonderful — until David goes to the address he has been given to see this phenomenon and witnesses a man possessed. Despite not being a believer in any way, in God or in the demons which he knows so much about through Milton, David finds himself unable to explain the disturbing thing he has seen. And when he goes back to the hotel, the presence, the Unnamed, takes Tess from him.
While everyone else believes the obvious explanation that Tess committed suicide, David knows something else is going on. He ends up on a chase around the country that leads him to witness more phenomena, and to figure out a way to save his daughter. The Unnamed gives a deadline by which David must do what it asks, or else Tess will be gone forever.
The Demonologist is based squarely and solidly on Milton’s writing, giving the book a particularly classical feel, while weaving in the story of David’s own history and “demons,” his beliefs (and nonbelief) and worldview. It’s a thriller, a mystery, a bit of a “ghost story.” I was riveted.
Rated: High. There are 10 uses of strong language, more uses of mild and moderate language, several sexual references, and a fair amount of violence.