Book Review: Daddy Dearest by Paul Southern

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An estranged father’s weekend with his beloved five-year-old daughter turns into a nightmare when she gets into the lift of a city centre tower block and goes down without him. She vanishes without a trace. It sets off a race against time, and a nationwide manhunt, to find her. As the police investigation closes in, suspicion falls on those closest to her – with devastating consequences. Daddy Dearest is a terrifying story of love, obsession, and psychological meltdown.

‘My daughter has always had a thing about lifts. There’s something about the thrill of pressing a button and seeing the lift doors close which excites her imagination. It terrifies me. Every time she walks in, I imagine it’s the last time I’ll see her. What if she hits the button before I get there? What if the lift doors close and I can’t get her out? It drives me nuts. There are eight floors in the Sears building, nine if you count the basement, and the lift is fast: more like a fairground ride, really. It does top to bottom in twelve seconds. I’ve timed it. Taking the stairs, I’ve done it in forty-two. That leaves a gap of thirty seconds. You’d be surprised what can happen in that time. I was.’
ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
When I started this book, I had very different expectations. But, must say, Daddy Dearest is very different from every other thriller I’ve read. It is so complex and so painfully real, there were moments when I didn’t know should I cry or laugh. Let me tell you something about the plot:
The main character is a man who is living in a flat. He is just an ordinary man, something very grumpy, sometimes very ironic. He describes himself as „not necessarily misanthropic by nature“. He hates people but wants to be loved by them in the same time. He finds his neighbors annoying and avoids too much contact with any of them.
But this man is a father of a little girl. And his fatherhood changes him into a completely different person. When she comes to visit him, suddenly he becomes the nicest man on Earth with the loveliest little girl in his arms. When he is with her, everyone is so nice to him, everyone greets him with a smile, everyone has a nice word for him. He loves his daughter to the bits, and he would do anything for her, just like every father would do. She is the only person that this man loves unconditionally, no matter what.
It all changes one day when his little girl vanishes in the building. They have their own version of the game „hide and seek“. They play it in the basement, hiding behind the doors of the elevator. But his daughter never shows up. She simply disappears behind the elevator’s doors. She is gone. Missing. His entire world is turned upside down.
I wouldn’t reveal more of the story, but I hope that I hooked you already. I’ve found the father one of a kind character and I am not sure should I judge him or should I feel sorry for him. Sometimes people do things what they think are best for them and those they love, without thinking of the consequences. Some people might find him as a psycho, some might have walked into his shoes. I am not a parent yet and I can not imagine what would I do for my child. Sometimes love is selfish.
This isn’t a book about serial killers. It is a „hide and seek“ game among the flats in the building, from the basement through the sliding doors of the elevators to the one man’s mind. I had goose bumps to the very last page wondering what would happen next. The author created a character that will make you love him and hate him at the very same time.
You’ll ask: „What about the little girl?“
Well, I recommend you to read the book.
My opinion: 4 / 5.
Following an induced labour some time in the 1960s (due date: Halloween night), I had my subscription to a normal life revoked by itinerant parents, who moved from city to city. Lived in Liverpool, Belfast, London and Leeds, then escaped to university, where I nearly died of a brain haemorrhage. After an unexpected recovery, formed an underground indie group (Sexus). Met the lead singer through standing on a bee. Made immediate plans to become rich and famous, but ended up in Manchester. Shared a house with mice, cockroaches, and slugs; shared the street with criminals. Five years later, hit the big time with a Warners record deal. Concerts at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, Melody Maker front cover, Smash Hits Single of the Week, Radio 1 and EastEnders. Mixed with the really rich and famous. Then mixed with lawyers. Ended up back in Manchester, broke. Got a PhD in English (I am the world’s leading authority on Tennyson’s stage plays), then wrote my first novel, The Craze, based on my experiences of the Muslim community. Immediately nominated to the Arena X Club (the name Arena magazine gave to a select group of creative, UK-based men responsible for shaping the way their readers lived and enjoyed their lives). Wrote a second book, Brown Boys in Chocolate, which predicted the London bombings. Fell foul of the censors and subsequently gagged by the press. Got ITV interested in a story on honour killings and inter-racial marriages and was commissioned to write a screenplay (Pariah) based on my life story. ITV balked at the content. Subsequently, trod the Wasteland before finding the grail again: a book deal with children’s publisher, Chicken House. Killing Sound, a YA horror set on the London Underground, was published by them in September 2014. The book, originally written for older teens (16+) and adults, was censoriously edited by the publishers to fit a much younger demographic, and inevitably failed to reach either market; the grail proved elusive and I returned to writing something it was impossible to dilute. Daddy Dearest, a dark, psychological thriller, will be released in 2016.

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