After reading THE DEMONOLOGIST, I came away not exactly wowed by that bestselling book but interested in the author. I picked up THE ONLY CHILD, which offered a similarly intriguing premise, and came away with the same mix of likes and dislikes.
In THE ONLY CHILD, Dr. Lily Dominick, a New York forensic psychologist, deals with the worst of the worst criminals. She feels at home here, in this institution, as she’s always been estranged from other people. This is because her mother was murdered when she was a child by what may have been a monster.
When a man comes before her claiming to be the inspiration behind literary monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein, she considers him a charismatic but ultimately violently insane criminal. Then he claims to be her father. When he breaks out out of prison, Lily gives chase to learn what he has to tell her about her mother and the night of mom’s murder.
In some ways, THE ONLY CHILD is similar to THE DEMONOLOGIST. Protagonist with a dark side who can’t relate to other people is forced into a chase by a monstrous antagonist. Enter a third party that wants to capture the monster and is willing to kill her. The book seems to be constructed one chapter something happens, the next chapter Lily ruminates on it. The plotting and structure is as set up for a bestseller as you can get (think Dan Brown), though this novel did not achieve the sales THE DEMONOLOGIST enjoyed.
Pyper occasionally delivers riveting horror sequences, but for this reader the lack of a likeable protagonist diffused the tension. As with THE DEMONOLOGIST, I felt the protagonist was too emotionally distanced for me to fully engage. Lily also changes her mind frequently, makes bad decisions, and alternates between being terrified and in lust with the monster. The big reveals at the end only reinforced this for me. The monster, meanwhile, is intriguing but completely unsympathetic, being a brutal sadist.
So I liked it. It’s a good book, and Pyper should be applauded for his success, but as with THE DEMONOLOGIST, while I liked it, I didn’t love it. I just need that protagonist I can relate to and root for.