The blurb on the back of the book says : "Based on a true story, Secret Demon relates the astonishing, and often harrowing, childhood of a girl whose life is beset by abuse and demonic activity". It goes on to outline Megan's life, from her idyllic early years in rural Ireland with her grandmother to bullying at school, an unpredictable and alcoholic mother, then more abuse in her foster home. I was expecting a gritty, poignant and disturbing read, following Megan and her story of survival, somewhat similar to Armadillos by P.K. Lynch, that I have also just reviewed.
What I wasn't expecting was the extent of the paranormal element. The synopsis describes the novel as "a supernatural story of one little girl's battle against abuse and neglect" and goes on to explain that it is "the first of a series which follows Megan as her physical and spiritual lives unfold". I'd describe myself as an open-minded sceptic. One of my favourite TV programmes is Most Haunted and, while I know full well that 99% of the spooky goings-on are totally staged, I still believe that there are things in this world that we cannot really understand or explain. I was expecting Megan to have a psychic connection or feel a ghostly presence supporting her, maybe be the focus of poltergeist activity or the victim of satanic worship rituals, all of which I could have believed in with no problem. I wasn't expecting her to be a half demon, like her mother, and have a tail, fangs and glowing green eyes, as well as superhuman strength, when she really loses her cool. I also wasn't expecting angels to be walking around in people's houses or loitering in corners with swords without anybody batting an eyelid, and I found it hard to equate this with the "based on a true story" label. As a work of fiction, I'm happy to go along with a suspension of disbelief and take on board angels, demons, devils, vampires and all manner of other-wordly creatures, but in a true story, I'm not so sure. I actually found that for me, it detracted from the tension and horror of certain scenes, such as the bullying or the attempted rape by the foster father, because it all became a bit burlesque and unbelievable rather than poignant.
Another aspect that slightly spoilt my enjoyment was the bad language, not in itself - I have nothing against swearing when it fits in with the narrative - but because it seemed totally out of place and unrealistic. Having a respectable, hard-working and highly professional ward sister tell her nurses that they are a "f***ing bunch of lazy f****ers" totally stopped me believing in her character. The same goes for a mumsy social worker and young Megan herself dropping an F-bomb, which seemed totally out of character and unrealistic to me.
It's an interesting story though, slightly reminiscent of Rosemary's Baby, which I'm sure paranormal fiction lovers would appreciate. I'd have actually enjoyed it much more if it hadn't had the "based on a true story label" and I hadn't come to it expecting something totally believable and realistic, but maybe I'm not open-minded enough.
star rating : 3.5/5
RRP : £8.99
Disclosure : I received a copy of the book in order to write an honest review.