I’m a huge fan of Andrew Pyper’s work, but The Only Child wasn’t my favourite of his works. At first glance, the story seemed right up my alley — Lily, a psychiatrist, meets Michael, a man who claims to be the inspiration for Frankenstein’s monster and other characters from Victorian horror fiction. He also claims to be Lily’s father.
I usually love Pyper’s brand of literary horror, and his skill at calling upon elements of classical literature or mythology to formulate his contemporary stories. The Only Child, however, wasn’t quite as tightly woven as his other works. The beginning was weak, and the monster and situation weren’t quite as menacing as they could have been, given the premise. There were a couple of moments of gross violence, but otherwise, the book lacked the sense of all-pervasive danger that made Pyper’s other works so compelling.
Lily finds herself drawn to Michael, but given the possibility that he’s her father, it just created a weirdly incestuous sexual tension vibe that was just plain icky. As well, Michael wasn’t at all a charismatic enough character to make the attraction believable, or to make him a truly menacing figure. I like the traces of vulnerability in Michael, and his desire to “only connect,” as E.M. Forster once wrote, but this vulnerability wasn’t so much explored as simply expressed. It’s as if Pyper couldn’t quite decide if Michael was an evil or sympathetic character, and the result was a watered down muddle of both.
The story did get better as it went on, and I thought the ending was strong. Most of it, however, just felt jumbled, with Pyper attempting to squeeze in as many classical horror references as he could. Andrew Pyper is always an entertaining writer, but this wasn’t quite as compelling for me as his other works.
Thank you to Simon Schuster Canada for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.