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2017 Reading Challenge

Jill Elizabeth has read 2 books toward her goal of 150 books.
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Book Review: The Only Child by Andrew Pyper

“A dragon may be wondrous to behold, but that same wonder demands it be slain.”

This was a great idea that suffered in the execution…

The concept – that there is one “man” who is responsible for the myths underpinning the gothic horror canon (Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde, Dracula) – is a cool (if not necessarily utterly original) one. The addition of the forensic psychologist, Lily Dominick, who meets him with the intention of treatment but soon realizes there’s more to him than meets the eye – and whose life rapidly faces radically life-altering consequences as a result – offered opportunities for analysis and clever insights. The addition of the journal, as the means for relaying backstory was a very interesting, somewhat meta-, way to give the relevant details (sort of literature within literature). And if the story had stuck to those elements, it would probably have been excellent rather than merely interesting. Unfortunately, Pyper somehow felt compelled to add in other, extraneous, competing elements (and genres)… The result was a hodgepodge that never really came into its own as I hoped it would.

This is a gothic contemporary psychological thriller horror story full of hunters and victims and chases and history and mental health and personal growth and… Simply put, it tries to be too many things down too many paths, and thereby loses its way altogether.

Pyper is a great storyteller. I’ve read his work several times before and always enjoyed it. He tells ambitious, creepy tales – and he tells them well. Unfortunately, this time he tried to expand beyond the ambitious into the stratospheric… Perhaps he could have kept all of those balls in the air, but the book would have had to be at least twice as long. As it is, the beginning third of the book is excellent, with great pacing and suspense-building, and then the scope suddenly starts expanding – and the characters start shrinking. Both Lily and Michael started out as complex, sophisticated characters, but gradually devolved into stereotypes – and not the ones I expected (or would have wanted). The strong, independent, emotionally closed-off doctor becomes a basket case of a victim; her part in the finale is utterly unbelievable as a result. And Michael, whose rationales are initially teased out through the brilliant journal backstory bits, becomes a straight-up monster – until suddenly, through hindsight and inner monologues at the very end, maybe he wasn’t.

As a whole, it just felt like a meandering jumble of things – which was a true shame, because it started off so strongly…

My review copy was provided by NetGalley.

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