– Kate McLaughlin –
Published 8 March 2022
What would you do if you found out your father was the worst kind of serial killer? How would you act when you have to come face-to-face with him for the first time. This is a gritty and dark novel, but didn’t quite sit right with me.
Scarlet’s life is forever changed when two FBI agents arrive at her door. It turns out, the father she never knew is actually on death row for a string of murders and other crimes. Now, dying, her father has one last request. If he can speak with Scarlet, he’ll reveal the locations of the bodies of the other women he killed. Thrown into a world of serial killers, media storms and cold cases, Scarlet must reconcile who is she now that she knows everything she once knew about her life, including her own name, is a lie.
Full credit to the author for creating a thrilling and edgy novel. It had the atmosphere of a good crime novel, but solving the mysteries isn’t a focus of the book. This is Scarlet’s story and what it is like to discover you are the daughter of a serial killer. It’s about her rebelling against her mother’s protective control over her life, only for her to finally understand what promoted that protectiveness. It’s about her anxiety and finally learning to accept that. It’s about finding her voice. It’s about her falling in love. And it’s about living and being true to herself, even if her father’s past is horrible.
However, there were a few things I did not enjoy about this book.
I’m not sure the necrophilia in this book was necessary to the plot, let alone the details it goes into. If you don’t know what necrophilia is, don’t look it up. Trust me. You don’t want to know. Yes, I get how the author wanted to make Scarlet’s father appear as evil and as horrible as possible, but honestly it came across as only being there for shock value. There were so many other parts to this book, how many girls he killed and his character alone that carried the narrative and the whole necrophilia thing just felt excessive. The book is written as if targeted to a young teen audience but the content does not fit that at all. It made a book I’d have been happy to hand to all my high school readers, something that I’ll think twice about recommending. Every other part of Scarlet’s father’s past and character is done well. He is terrifying, made even more so by the way he can come across as charming.
I was intrigued by how Scarlet aims to take the focus off her father and onto the victims by making a film about them. My initial reaction was shock. Maybe it was well intentioned but if I put myself in the shoes of the family of a victim, no way would I want her butting in. But, as always, Scarlet makes it all about her. And, as we only get to see one interview and no details about the victims, this remains lip service in the book that says it’s important we talk about and care about the victims but that it itself remains entirely focused on the serial killer and not the victims. Opportunity missed there, I think.
While the story is about Scarlet and her working through of the events she is faced with, Scarlet self medicates with excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol. I got tired of the amounts of times she was high. Again, I’m not sure what this lent to the plot, as learning to make better decisions or find better coping strategies didn’t seem to be a focus of her character growth. A lot of the start of the book is all about her rebelling against her mother’s protective control of her life, which is explained when her father being a serial killer is revealed, but Scarlet still pushes against the boundaries. And gets high. Multiple times. And that got old.
Overall, an intriguing book but there are some excellent examples out there in this genre that I will be recommending over this title.
The publishers provided an advanced readers copy of this book for reviewing purposes. All opinions are my own.
Category: Young adult fiction.
Themes: Serial killers, family, romance, sex, anxiety, media, filmography, drugs
Reading age guide: Ages 15 and up.
Representation: Jewish main characters, LGBT main and side characters, LGBT relationships, adopted main character.
Advisory: References to death, murder, rape, sexual assault, injury, torture, necrophilia, serial killers. References to frequent drug and alcohol use to excess. Sexual references, references to sexual relationships, sex scene with some details. Frequent coarse language f*** (73), sh** (39), bi*** (9), di** (1), pi** (15), as***** (15).
Published: 8 March 2022 by Wednesday Books
Format: Hardcover, ebook. 336 pages.