Cover of Daughter by Kate McLaughlin. A blurry white girls face stares through shattered glass

About the Book

Title: Daughter
Published: 2022

Cover Story: Seen It
Drinking Buddy: A Nice Chianti
MPAA Rating: NC-17 (graphic descriptions of violence and rape, alcohol and marijuana use, sexuality, language)
Talky Talk: Quid Pro Quo
Bonus Factor: Serial Killers
Bromance Status: Have the Lambs Stopped Screaming?

Cover Story: Seen It

If it’s a romance, we go with giant teen faces. If it’s a thriller, the faces are out of focus or obscured.

Content warning: contains descriptions of rape, murder, and crimes against nature.

The Deal:

Scarlet’s overprotective mother never told her much about her father. Just that he abandoned the family and she was better off without him in her life. But now they’ve received word that he is dying of cancer, and would dearly love it if Scarlet would travel down to North Carolina so he could see her one last time.

The thing is, dear old dad is not a deadbeat. He’s Jeff Lake, one of the most notorious serial killers in US history. He’s on death row for the rape and murder of 14 young women, though the actual number is probably much higher. And he won’t tell the authorities where the other bodies are. But he’s willing to tell Scarlet.

Scarlet, who never knew this family connection, wants nothing to do with this monster. But…doesn’t she owe it to the families to give them a little closure? To give these girls the justice that was denied to them? Is she willing to make a deal with the devil?

Drinking Buddy: A Nice Chianti

Two pints of beer cheersing

All her life, Scarlet wondered why her mother kept her on such a short leash. How suspicious she was of Scarlet’s dates, how she never let her daughter travel, how she always had to check in every hour. Geez, Mom, what are you so worried about?

Well, it turns out her fears were not ungrounded. And while Jeff Lake is in a maximum security prison, no one has forgotten what he’s done. People loved those girls, and if anyone figured out that Scarlet was actually ‘Baby Britney’, well, things could go very bad for her family.

Scarlet, who was in the midst of an angsty ‘does he like me like me’ relationship, suddenly finds out she’s the daughter of a monster. And that the FBI needs her to climb into a cage and chat with him.

MPAA Rating: NC-17 (graphic descriptions of violence and rape, alcohol and marijuana use, sexuality, language)

So Jeff is not a charmer like Bundy or a complete nut job like Manson. He’s more of a Lecter: intelligent, calculating, and unrepentant. He’s not interesting in reconciling with his daughter. He wants to hurt her (and by extension, his ex-wife) by describing the horrible things he did and revealing just enough names that Scarlet doesn’t simply hop on a plane back to Connecticut. Though his body is about dead, he can still get inside Scarlet’s head by describing how he would have eventually killed her mother, had that nosy hiker not called the cops. How he once had a live woman tied up in the shed when her mother came by the cabin with Scarlet for a surprise visit. How he had named her Britney, after his favorite victim.

Scarlet is horrified to realize she’s the spawn of this man, and he’s intelligent enough to keep her on the line until he finally dies. Meanwhile, she and her mother are staying with an FBI agent and his family. Including his son Luke, a handsome Southern boy who’s getting over a bad breakup. But how can Scarlet even think about that at a time like this?

Talky Talk: Quo Pro Quo

How many books have we read about a teen connecting with a father they’ve never met? And it’s usually for good reason: they had little interest in fatherhood, they never paid child support, they were unfaithful, they drank, etc. Scarlet, on the other hand, has to deal with a man who is not only a murderer, but one who did it for fun. And might still be doing it if he hadn’t been caught. A guy like that can get into your brain, can’t he? I mean, surely Scarlet is a daughter in name only, right? She’s not a killer. No way. Why does he keep bringing that up?

Scarlet was a nice portrayal of a teen who is suddenly face to face with a demon. No one would blame her if she went back to living her quiet, anonymous life in New England. But there’s something compulsive about wanting to talk to Lake. It’s a game she’s determined he will not win.

Her romance with Luke was nice, but seemed somewhat out of place. I would have waited until Lake went to his final judgement before leaping in like that, it felt kind of shoehorned in.

Bonus Factor: Serial killers

Human skull

We like to read about them. We like to tell scary stories about them. We like the made-for-TV documentaries. Heck, Scarlet’s friend even wrote a paper about Lake. But in the end, serial killers are something that happen to other people. Mostly in California.

But Lake is real, and he’s horrible. The women he killed were all somebody’s daughter or sister, and with Lake dying in prison, there’s a lot of impotent rage out there. The public wants someone to pay for his crimes.

I mean, could Scarlet’s mother really have been that stupid or oblivious? The victims were drugged, after all, and she was a pharmacist. Just where did he get those sedatives? And why does his daughter get to live when he took other people’s children? Scarlet and her mother face a lot of hate from a public who wants revenge.

Also, Lake remarried. In prison. To a woman…well, the sort of woman who’d marry a serial killer. How do you deal with a stepmother like that?

Incidentally, did you know Ted Bundy has a daughter who has managed to live more or less anonymously? Could Scarlet manage that?

Bromance Status: Have the Lambs Stopped Screaming?

Certainly not a lighthearted summer read, I’ll be sure to pick up other works by this author. To read in the daylight.

Literary Matchmaking

Feral

Holly Schindler’s Feral had a similar vibe.

Killing Time

As did Brenna Ehrlich’s Killing¬†Time.

Asylum (Asylum #1)

And Madeleine Roux’s Asylum series.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor time in a secluded cabin in the woods for writing this review.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.