Edgar takes a drink. “I have a sort of nervous disorder,” he blurts out, shocked that he would say such a thing to a relatively new acquaintance. “And I have had strange experiences.”
“What do you mean?”
“Strange things have happened to me.” His voice sounds almost foreign to him. “Perhaps I have imagined some too.”
“Imagined?” Lawrence pauses for a moment. “Delusions?” He takes a long look at Edgar. “I…I have learned about such things of late. We have a new doctor here…a psychiatrist, an alienist, a specialist in nerves. That profession is the coming thing in medicine these days. This person helps with mental disorders of all sorts; though I am told such problems are rarely seen in men…perhaps men are not coming forward, being honest.” His voice drops lower and he hesitates for a second. “There is no shame in it.” He adds, much louder. “None whatsoever. But I doubt you-”
“I believe there are monsters.”
Lawrence says nothing for a moment. “How do you mean, monsters, Brim?”
“Well, perhaps not monsters. It’s just that …when I read, when I look at a painting or see a play…I saw Henry Irving once, playing the devil at the Lyceum Theatre…” Edgar’s eyes enlarge
“…when I read a book I enter it.”
“I feel like I am really there in the story, and I can hear the things that go on and see them and smell them. They are very real. The characters are alive for me. Perhaps the villains, the creatures, are the most vivid.”
“That is extraordinary…so do I.”
Demon, the intense final book in the “Dark Mysteries of Edgar Brim” trilogy, explores the many aspects of fear and the consequences of allowing it to have control over our thoughts and actions. Edgar and his friends, Lucy, Jonathan and Tiger, have just defeated Frankenstein’s monster and have returned to London. While the four friends are on guard against the next creature which they are sure will come, Edgar returns to work at London Hospital.
Edgar has always lived with a degree of fear, but he is now experiencing increased anxiety and paranoia. In addition to the certainty that he and his friends are being stalked by an even more terrible aberration, he finds the behaviour of those closest to him increasingly odd. The paranoia faced by Edgar and his friends is sharply written and intense. Edgar’s very recently widowed mother is courting the hospital’s new chairman, Sir Andrew Lawrence. Edgar is seeing and hearing things that cannot possibly be real, and his night terrors involving the hag have increased in intensity. And Edgar’s closest friends appear to discount what Edgar sees and hears happening.
Unsure of whom to trust, Edgar finds himself confiding in Sir Lawrence who recommends Edgar see the hospital’s unusual alienist, Dr. Berenice. Despite her unusual treatment, Edgar continues to find reality increasingly blurring with paranoid fantasy. Suddenly and without warning, one of his friends is struck down, and those who remain seem to be working at odds with each other. With hallucinations causing Edgar to question his sanity, how can he possibly hope to defeat what appears to be the most powerful villain of all?
Edgar is a flawed character who doesn’t necessarily conform to Victorian period expectations of manhood. However, as the series has progressed, readers have seen him survive a heartbreaking childhood, struggle against debilitating anxiety, face bullies and much more, and all while consistently facing unthinkable challenges head on. He finds his inner strength and harnesses it to protect himself and his friends. Edgar’s long-time friend Tiger is a very well-written female character, formidably strong and independent. Siblings Lucy and Jonathan round out the foursome and also defy many of the social expectations of their time. It is all the more profound that this once close-knit group becomes divided by fear. The paranoia faced by Edgar and his friends is sharply written and intense.
Readers will never be quite sure where this story is taking them as the author keeps his audience guessing right up until the end. How can you defeat an unseen being that can infiltrate your thoughts and control your mind? Demon presents the ultimate villain, and its powers to infiltrate Edgar’s consciousness create some of the most unnerving scenes this reviewer has ever read. As Edgar and his friends begin to realize that someone is controlling their thoughts and emotions, they begin to doubt one another to nearly deadly results.
Shane Peacock was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario. A biographer, journalist and screenwriter, he is also the author of several novels and plays. He has received many honours for his writing, including the Arthur Ellis Award for Eye of the Crow and Becoming Holmes and the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Vanishing Girl, all of which are titles in his “The Boy Sherlock Holmes” series. Shane lives with his wife and three children in Cobourg, Ontario.
Chris Laurie is an Outreach Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, Manitoba.