the guardian Sat 08 November 2008
This is a sophisticated horror-fantasy written by either a first-timer of uncommon ability or an experienced hand using a pseudonym. The narrative is split between a 1980s Derby teacher-training college and presentday London. While a student, narrator Heaney penned a tome about how to summon demons, which was used by a fellow student with unforeseen consequences: all the girls Heaney had loved met terrible fates. He's lived with the guilt and the haunting presence of demons ever since, and atones for his sins by forging first editions of rare books and donating the proceeds to charity. He's also a charming closet alcoholic, and when he finds himself falling in love against his will he is forced to confront his demons, both literal and metaphoric. The novel is an ultimately uplifting feat of storytelling which grips the reader to the very last page.