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An engaging but banal re-creation of the Faustian legend, by Dorf (Flight, 1992, etc.), posing the question: At what cost will a mother try to save the life of her child?

Psychologist Dinah Galligan is at the bedside of her comatose five-year-old son when she hears a mysterious lullaby. She discovers the origin of the haunting melody—a demon, Seth Lucien, who has decided to haunt Dinah and her young son, Elijah. Dressed in biker’s leathers, his head half-eaten away by maggots, and surrounded by the graveyard stench, Seth is a menacing presence. Yet he promises Dinah the life of her son in exchange for the ultimate sacrifice. Seth, who, as we come to learn, is Dinah’s ex-boyfriend from her rebellious college days, is a greedy spirit who wants to possess Dinah in body, mind, and spirit. When the pact is finally made and Elijah is “returned” to his family unharmed, he actually seems to have flourished from his brush with death. But it’s the beginning of Dinah’s descent into hell. Her relationship with her family becomes strained, her marriage starts to disintegrate. As the ghost infiltrates Dinah’s life, her husband questions her sanity; her patients are driven away by her bizarre behavior, and she embarks on an adulterous affair that almost destroys what’s left of her marriage. With the help of Elijah, the only other person who can see Seth, Dinah begins to fight the evil one, and slowly the family is reunited. In a final fairy-tale–like showdown, both Elijah and Dinah join forces and sing the now infamous lullaby in an effort to banish the demon from their lives. As Seth slips away, so does Elijah, who once again falls into a coma.

A predictable if entertaining tale, weaving together the supernatural and the psychological.

Pub Date: June 5th, 2000
ISBN: 0-399-14630-X
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2000