Demon In Me: Jennifer Soucy
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Whatever you might believe, rock music and demons will always be linked in one way or another, from the misguided attempts to cast rockers as devil worshippers, to the personal demons people hide from using music as a shield. And then there are the demons you gain along the way. Demon in Me by Jennifer Soucy is mostly concerned with the last two, as a drummer called Layla is called back from her regular gig in Las Vegas to be with her dying mother. Her trip home digs up painful memories involving addiction, death and abuse.
What got my skin crawling more than anything here were Layla’s flashbacks, one in particular involving her father which has unsettling echoes of Gerald’s Game, and another involving her breakup with an old boyfriend called Daniel. There’s a fight, verbal and physical, and the violence presented here feels painfully real, as do all her tragic encounters both past and present. Daniel is the absolute worst, he’s this novel’s Christian from Midsommar, only ten times shittier. I actually started glaring every time I saw his name mentioned fairly early on, but he goes beyond glares into full-on hatred, his behaviour worsening with every chapter.
Even so, I felt as conflicted as Layla does when the tide starts to turn against her shitty ex, as uncertainty kicks in alongside the demonic doings. This was another awesome moment, where you see that things aren’t quite as simple as you might like – sure, revenge might be sweet, but what price are you willing to pay for it? The fact that Soucy manages to get you as riled up as Layla, then make both you and her rethink things is truly magnificent stuff.
Soucy also excels at making you feel for the characters, and there’s a lot to feel here, from sadness to terror, relief to rage, especially as you learn more about Layla’s history and what happened to (and with) her father. I was blinking away tears on more than one occasion, but there are also genuine, heartfelt moments of humour, kids acting like real kids, and people saying things they regret before struggling to save face. The demonic stuff is always bubbling away under the surface, and as you’re in so deep with the deeply human drama, the monster moments kick you in the gut that much more effectively, as they’re used sparingly.
You want to see things pan out as well they can for Layla and her family, but her demons – and life in general – have other plans. There’s a genuine “oh shit!” moment in the second half, with secrets revealed and relationships strained, and when the demons finally surface, the story somehow becomes even more compelling. In hindsight I made a mistake rushing through so fast to see what happened to Layla and her family & friends, because this is one to take your time over. Despite the tragedy, despite the pain, you need to see what happens on the other side, as hard as it might be to get there.
And of course, the soundtrack is killer.
Demon In Me
“I’d been absent for too long, a voluntary exile . . . pretending to be a family never did us any favors.”
Layla survived years of addiction and trauma, burying the most brutal recollections of a past which nearly destroyed her. She escaped Hell, slapped a tourniquet on her toxic memories, and found a measure of peace as a drummer in Las Vegas. Ten years later, she’s moved on from all she left behind . . . until she’s called home to Connecticut, a plea from her dying mother.
Back to Blackpool, where her estranged family awaits alongside her old enemies. The trip awakens her inner demons, voices who warn that history may repeat itself. A new cycle of violence begins, echoing events Layla barely escaped once. The voices urge her to fight, reminding her of wrongs that were never made right. If she gives in, she may lose both her sanity and her soul . . . a steep price to save a family who’d given up on her once.
Layla’s reached a crossroads, a choice between an insatiable thirst for vengeance or forgiveness for those who harmed her. But some crimes are unforgivable, and some wounds refuse to be forgotten.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.