The Only Girl - Andrew Pyper

Ack!! The hardest review to write? One for a book that is well written but just not a genre you particularly enjoy reading. It’s simply a case of a slight mismatch between book & reader, for which I take full responsibility. So here’s the deal. I’ll tell you what I did like & why I think those with a taste for tales of horror with fantastical beasts should snap this up.

 

The MC is 36 year old Dr. Lily Dominick. Lily is a psychiatrist who works with the scariest, most diseased minds incarcerated at the maximum security Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Centre in NYC. She’s a private, insular woman whose experiences as a child pretty much sealed her fate in terms of career choice.

 

When Lily was 6, she & her mother were living in a remote cabin outside of Fairbanks when the unthinkable happened. It began with a knock at the door. Her memories of that night are hazy at best but what she does remember is the shadow of a large creature standing over her mother’s broken body. The resulting investigation ruled it a bear attack but Lily would beg to differ. Something carried her out to the nearest road where she was found. And even the most well mannered bear doesn’t usually knock before entering.

 

Lily has a gift for connecting with the “monsters’ in her care & she’ll need all her skills for the latest arrival. He’s a man with no name who claims to be over 200 years old. He seems to know all about her, something he explains with another bombshell. He’s her father.

 

Over the next 24 hours Lily witnesses events that cause her carefully constructed world to crash & burn. She doesn’t know it yet but it’s the end of normal & she soon sets off on a personal journey that takes her across Europe & back again.

 

In alternate chapters, we get her father’s story from his journal. He calls himself Michael & tells how he was created in 1811. He’s led a violent & fascinating life, showing his true self to a select few along the way. In an interesting twist he describes how meeting Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker & Robert Louis Stevenson resulted in disappointing versions of himself.

 

There are other threads to the plot including a shadowy group hunting Michael, a possible love interest for Lily & her gradual recovery of memories surrounding her mother’s death.

 

The first 25% of the book was a bit slow. We spend a lot of time in Lily’s head & are privy to her every thought, comment, action & memory. She comes across as oddly flat & although the reason for this is explained later, it makes it difficult to connect with her initially. I much preferred the historical chapters detailing Michael’s life. They’re richly atmospheric & really put flesh on the bones of this original character. For me the book got better as it progressed although the love interest angle seemed unnecessary as the whole story revolves around the relationship between Michael & Lily. But either way, it probably won’t prepare you for the ending. It’s a humdinger that leaves the door open for a possible sequel.

 

So just to be clear…..the rating reflects my enjoyment factor, not the author’s skills as a story teller. If you’re someone who enjoys horror with a twist of fantasy, I urge you to pick up this original tale derived from 3 classics of the genre.