First published back in April of 1995, British author Shaun Hutson’s novel ‘Lucy’s Child’ formed one of the author’s earliest novel’s to deviate away from his usual 100% horror plot – here adopting a more psychological thriller approach.

DLS Synopsis:
The last person who Beth Parker thought would be waiting on her doorstep for her was her younger sister Lucy Morton.  After all, how many years had it been since they’d last spoken?  Two…three years?  Maybe more.  And she wasn’t exactly thrilled to see her.

Ever since their parents had died after an unexplainable fire broke out in their home, Lucy had allowed her life to spiral into a pit of drugs and squalor.  But even now, at the age of twenty-six, the one thing that she despised the most about Lucy was the fact that she had gotten out of the burning house without so much as a scratch on her.  She even had time to phone the fire brigade.  So why hadn’t she gotten their parents out?  As far as Beth was concerned, Lucy had left them in the house to burn.

And now with Lucy temporarily living under the same roof as them, Beth and her twenty-nine-year-old husband, Simon, were beginning to feel the rising tension.  But when Lucy discovers that Beth is infertile, the torment that Lucy is capable of inflicting on Beth and Simon is taken to a whole new level.

Thankfully, Beth’s work needed her to go away for a couple of days, which gave her the opportunity to get away from the mounting tension at home.  However, upon returning she discovers Lucy’s stash of cocaine and a nine-inch long hunting knife.  The discovery was the last straw for her.  But Beth wouldn’t have the chance to confront her sister.  Because whilst she was busy getting rid of the cocaine, Lucy had been involved in an accident on seventeen-year-old Mark Hennessey’s Harley Davidson.  An accident that would leave her on a life support machine.  But the inborn child in her womb somehow survived the ordeal.  A child that Beth would soon desperately fight to adopt.

Meanwhile, Beth’s husband, Simon, had taken on a new patient in the Secure Ward at Brackley Heath Psychiatric Hospital.  The new patient could provide the push Simon’s career as a psychiatrist needed. The new arrival was twenty-six-year-old Karen Gregson who reportedly killed both her children – one of which was just three months old, the other just eighteen-months-old, she had cut out the eyes and fed them to her neighbour’s dog.  With such a high-profile patient, Simon knows that he needs to get behind the young woman’s psychosis and reach the person within, but there seems to be a worrying connection between this young killer and his own personal life.

And in amongst all of the tragic chaos of death and madness is this one glimmer of life.  Lucy’s child could turn the utter despair into something positive.  But some things are best left alone.  And Lucy’s child is no exception…

DLS Review:
Creeping away from his ‘home-turf’ in pure splatterpunk mayhem, Hutson’s ‘Lucy’s Child’ leans heavily towards an exaggerated psychological thriller than that of a textbook horror novel.  That is for the vast majority of the tale.  However, Hutson (at the time of this particular novel) was evidently somewhat apprehensive to venture too far from the safety-net of horror, no doubt to ensure he didn’t suffer repercussions from his still growing fanbase; and so decided to throw in a last minute element of supernatural horror.  Although, to be fair, this doesn’t really come across as merely pandering to his firmly-established horror audience.  It works.  And it fits in with the psychological plotline that preceded it.

From early on in the tale what becomes apparent is the increased level of sex that Hutson has injected into the novel.  Okay, so it’s not exactly up to Edward Lee’s sordid standards, but compared with Hutson’s earlier publications, the tale has definitely adopted a more erotically-charged approach.

What works particularly well with the tale is the use of two distinctly separated storylines that run alongside each other through the majority of the novel, yet still maintaining a firm link with each other.  The Parker’s problems with Lucy being the principal thread, whilst the secondary storyline surrounding Simon Parker’s new patient, Karen Gregson, becoming more and more intertwined as the tale progresses.

Indeed, the whole Karen Gregson thread delivers some of the most entertaining subplots - one in particular being the continuously-escalating sexual indecency from the sordid orderly, Frank Jennings, upon his new patient.  If you think of the grubby-orderly from ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’(1991), and allow him the time and opportunity to keep escalating his gross-misconduct on the patient, then you’ll have a reasonable idea of what to expect here.

Back with the principal storyline, and Hutson really knows how to stir up a hornets’ nest with the domestic conflict between the two sisters.  Lucy, along with being incredibly flirtatious, is one hell of a nasty piece of work.  She’s a viper you certainly wouldn’t want to get bitten by.  And Hutson has created a completely believable bitch-of-a-character in her.

With the domestic warfare raging on, the tale packs in scene after scene of conflict and misery, all of which is interspersed with Frank Jennings’ sexual misconduct on Gregson and Simon Parker’s task at getting inside the mind of this psychotic young killer.  And with such a maelstrom of negative mayhem constantly being thrust upon the reader, the novel nevertheless manages to successfully set a scene of slipping lives and absolute misery – all without getting too depressively up-close-and-personal.

As such, the novel works incredibly well.  It’s not exactly a light-hearted romp, but at the same time it doesn’t get overly bogged down in the constant misery of the twin storylines.  Going outside of his usual comfort zone, Hutson has achieved a hell of a lot here, and with its success, the author’s venturing into further non-horror territory was sure to follow (as indeed it did).  It’s one of Hutson’s quite lengthy back-catalogue that is well worth a read.

The novel runs for a total of 372 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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