It’s no picnic being the daughter of Satan, especially if you’re disinclined toward evil. Just ask Mouse, the 700-year-old protagonist of The Devil’s Bible by Nashville author Dana Chamblee Carpenter. This book picks up where Carpenter’s debut novel, Bohemian Gospel, left off in the story of the unfortunate daughter of a human mother and the Prince of Darkness.
Mouse has spent her very long life running from her father to prevent him from involving her in his evil schemes. But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in some ways, and Mouse cannot help having certain inhuman qualities, including enhanced memory and sensory awareness, eternal youth, freedom from disease, and the ability to heal quickly. She can also compel humans to do her bidding—a power that she once used carelessly, inadvertently causing the deaths of thousands. That costly mistake has haunted and defined her: “Every day since, for seven hundred years, Mouse had paid penance for that moment,” Carpenter writes. “She supposed some would envy her immortality, but to Mouse it was the worst of her father’s inheritance. To be forever alone. To forever bear the guilt of what she’d done. She’d sworn then that she would never use her power again, that she would never kill again.”
To control her emotions and prevent another disastrous slip-up whenever her power threatens to surge out of her control, Mouse keeps her mind occupied with repetitive tasks like counting. Her oddly emotionless behavior has often caused others to speculate about her mental health:
She didn’t have to worry about mobs with pitchforks or witch trials or Inquisitions anymore, just people judging her for being different. She’d heard several of her colleagues speculating about whether or not she had Asperger’s or OCD. Apparently, her rigid routine had not gone unnoticed. But to Mouse’s ear, these were all just different labels for odd. She’d been given many over her lifetime, most often witch or angel. No one used those much anymore.
All Mouse really wants is a normal life—exactly what she knows she can never have. Her one foray into matrimony and motherhood ended disastrously, and aside from a few early mentors who helped her to understand her unique place in the cosmos and the tremendous responsibility she bears, she necessarily shuns all human contact beyond the superficial.
When a former student suddenly shows up at the college in Nashville where Mouse has taught for the past thirteen years, he brings with him new research into the Codex Gigas, or the “Devil’s Bible,” a mysterious and powerful medieval manuscript, the authorship of which has puzzled scholars for hundreds of years. Mouse is very familiar with the book—in fact, she helped write it—and takes this development as her cue to leave Nashville for a new life under another name before anyone is able to put the pieces together and draw her father’s attention:
It didn’t matter what job she took. It didn’t matter where she went. All that mattered was that she didn’t kill anyone today. That was her anchor, her purpose in life. All the rest of it—staying free from her father, keeping the emotions at bay so that the power stayed asleep—all of it was so that when she went to sleep at night, she could say, “I didn’t kill anyone today.”
In alternating chapters set in a monastery in Bohemia (the present-day Czech Republic) during the thirteenth century, Carpenter paints a vivid portrait of Mouse’s early years and her initial interactions with the Evil One. As is so often the case in fiction, Satan is the most interesting one in the room, and the best scenes in the novel are the ones he shares with Mouse. Under no illusions about who her father is or what he is capable of, Mouse listens in a kind of bemused horror to his awkward and insincere attempts to offer fatherly advice to his only daughter:
“This world, life,” he swept his arms wide, “it’s bigger than you and your sorrows and your guilt. You are what you are.” He sighed and put his hand under her chin softly, turning her face to his and speaking more tenderly. “What you are does not have to define who you are. You can shape that all your own. Life is about joy more than sorrow.”
Mouse can only take his word for that. Back in the present day, spurred on by a fanatical bishop who recognizes her demonic identity and alarms her with his predictions and threats, Mouse begins a frantic quest to uncover information that will enable her to stop whatever abhorrent plans her father may be hatching. Avoiding her father’s lackeys, she races from the Vatican to Vienna, from the Czech Republic to Sweden, and from Norway to Israel in a desperate search for the answers she must find, both for her own peace of mind and for the protection of all humankind. And fans of historical fiction with a supernatural bent will thrill to the surprises Carpenter reveals within the ancient parchment pages of The Devil’s Bible.
A graduate of Auburn University, Tina Chambers has worked as a technical editor at an engineering firm and as an editorial assistant at Peachtree Publishers, where she worked on books by Erskine Caldwell, Will Campbell, and Ferrol Sams, to name a few. She lives in Chattanooga.