A review of The Boy Who Killed Demons by Dave Zeltserman

The Boy Who Killed DemonsReviewed by P.P.O. Kane

The Boy Who Killed Demons
By Dave Zeltserman
Duckworth, 2015
ISBN: 9780715649893

A brilliant contemporary horror novel written in the form of a journal (a la Adrian Mole), the clue being very much in the title.

Henry Dudlow is your average American adolescent, except for one tiny quirk: he sees some people as demons and believes that it is his mission to kill them before they can carry out a fatal ritual that will open the gates of hell.  Or has the world already fallen to wrack and ruin?

We don’t really know why Henry can see demons, how come he has been chosen to receive this gift or curse, while it has passed others by.  It’s unasked for and unwelcome; few have apparently possessed it in the past.  Henry is reflective, has insight into his condition.  He scouts demons out where he finds them, suspects they’re on to him (or is this just his paranoia?).  Researching past lore surrounding demons in myriad occult tomes, he uncovers claims which seem to vie with his own experience, such as that dogs and demons have a deep antipathy.

It’s an absorbing novel, and we’re quickly caught up in Henry’s concerns and anxieties.  Zeltserman convincingly captures the grumpy, grouchy voice of an adolescent boy – spoilt yet with a core integrity.  So much so, in fact, that we don’t really appreciate until right at the end how he has kept open the (albeit slim) possibility that Henry may be deluded.  Are these people actually demons, or is Henry the demon?

An entertaining novel, dark and humorous, touching and often exciting, with lots of inventive demon lore.

About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com