cover image The Boy Who Could See Demons

The Boy Who Could See Demons

Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Delacorte, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-345-53653-2

British poet Jess-Cooke follows her fiction debut, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, with a searing novel of suspense that plumbs a bereaved mother’s anguish. Anya Molokova, a child psychiatrist, has returned to her native Belfast hoping to help heal some of the 20 percent of Northern Ireland’s children who suffer from severe mental health problems. Anya, herself both the child of a suicidal parent and the agonized mother of a schizoid daughter who died tragically four years earlier, becomes professionally and personally involved with Alex Broccoli, a tormented 10-year-old with an imaginary demon friend. Jess-Cooke’s scalding descriptions of Belfast and its mental health care system ring painfully true, but the facile conclusion turns this perceptive exploration of schizophrenia upside down, even as it reinforces the novel’s predominant message—that as another poet long ago made his demon tempter insist, ordinary “reality” can indeed be an inescapable hell. Agent: Madeline Buston, Darley Anderson Literary Agency (U.K.). (Aug.)