Drawing inspiration from Netflix’s Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, Kate McLaughlin asks the question of what would it be like to be the teenage daughter of a notorious serial killer.
As Daughter begins, Scarlett has never known her father and her mother isn’t too keen to give her any details. As Scarlett balks at what she sees as her mother’s overly restrictive rules, she worries about the things many teenagers worry about — school, relationships, etc. Until one day when the FBI shows up at her house with news that Scarlett isn’t really her name and that she’s the daughter of a notorious serial killer who is dying and will only share details of some of his victims with his daughter. Suddenly, Scarlett’s life is less about the question of whether she should sleep with her potential new boyfriend and is about the question of if and how willing she is to help the FBI, all while being thrust into the media spotlight.
The portions of Daughter that detail Scarlett’s being thrust into the role of a reluctant celebrity and how the media wants to shatter her and her mother’s life (mom was married to said serial killer while he did the killings and even brought her home trinkets from his various victims) are among the novel’s more compelling. However, the novel falters a bit when Scarlett makes her decision and decides to meet with her father in prison to try and get any information she can in order to give the victims’ families some peace and closure. At this point, Scarlett seems far more mature than the character we’re presented with early on in the story and almost unnaturally calm n the face of a guy that McLaughlin wants us to buy as Hannibal Lecter if he had kids.
The novel also seems a bit unfocused in the second half when Scarlett meets up with the hot teenage son of the FBI profiler working on the case and the two seem to start hitting it off. McLaughlin has a lot of threads running through this one, though I honestly found the parts focusing on Scarlett’s turmoil of who her father is and what he did more compelling than the pages that feel grafted out of a young adult novel.
In the end, it all adds up to a solid start let down by a finish that doesn’t quite stick the landing.
I received a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.