The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper book review

The Demonologist by Andrew Pyper is out 11 April 2013 from Orbit

Andrew Pyper’s clearly consumed an ungodly (quite literally) amount of horror if The Demonologist is anything to go by.

Aside from the obvious (the title might be a pretty good indication of where things are headed in his sixth book) the tale is told in a way that isn’t a million miles away from something like HP Lovecraft or Edgar Allan Poe – all morose first-person moaning, replete with some pretty overegged description and metaphors, although the overly dramatic nature actually works in its favour, given the eldritch terrors within. There are even perhaps parallels with Dan Brown (an academic invited to Venice to investigate strangeness? Sounds like Tom Hanks should be on the case), although Pyper immediately has one over Dan Brown in that he can actually, you know, write pretty well.

The Demonologist is the story of David Ullman, a learned sort; wordy, thoughtful, and prone to the odd bout of existential misery. He’s a lecturer at a university who specialises in poetry, particularly John Milton’s Paradise Lost (cue dramatic oreshadowing music).

He’s invited to go to Venice by a mysterious woman and takes said sultry siren up on her offer, seeing it as an opportunity for him and his beloved daughter, who is described so lovingly in the novel that she may as well have ‘I’M GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE PRETTY DAMN SOON’ written on her forehead, to go on a holiday. Things go south pretty quickly, as said daughter makes the somewhat ill-advised decision to jump off a roof, causing Ullman untold grief, and the motivation to find out just what compelled his daughter to do such a thing.

The Demonologist is compelling for sure, and all told rather fun to read, though not without its flaws. Andrew Pyper’s pretty adept at setting the scene for not only the plot, but his characters. Ullman’s well fleshed out, and despite his propensity for over the top description, he’s ultimately fairly sympathetic, so he has one over on his dumbbell doppelganger Robert Langdon.

It’s all told from a first-person perspective, and the dramatic description and poetic vernacular he uses actually really helps to convey the drama and gravity of events. He doesn’t change a lot, though, which (given some of the events that happen in the book) is somewhat odd. The Demonologist is also sometimes rather too keen on spelling out the obvious as far as plot goes, and any exposition and foreshadowing might as well be underlined and spelled out in neon lights, such is the obviousness sometimes.

It’s really not especially deep, and it does sometimes feel like Ullman might be chasing the Da Vinci Code dollar, but The Demonologist works rather well as an over the top, blood and thunder horror novel. There’s some beautiful, flowing descriptive writing here, and it rattles by at a brisk pace, such is the nature of its structure and prose. It’s too blunt, and not as deep as one would like perhaps, but it’s an entertaining cultish diversion for those that need something devilish in their lives.