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Only Child

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,000 ratings  ·  139 reviews
Originally published as Stranglehold in the U.S. and Only Child in the UK (and later, in the U.S. as well)

Arthur Danse doesn’t live by the normal rules. He knows he has been put on earth for a purpose -to show people that the world is a dark and terrible place. To say no to Arthur Danse is to receive a lesson in fear and pain. No matter who you are.

Wife… lover… stranger… o
Hardcover, signed limited to 1000 numbered copies, 404 pages
Published March 1st 2008 by Gauntlet Press (first published September 1st 1995)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,000 ratings  ·  139 reviews

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Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hardcover Headline UK edition.

Violence in 'Only Child' is extreme and, at times quite graphic.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A truly disturbing piece from Ketchum. Does he do it any other way? Brutal realism.

Every parents worst nightmare. Makes me sick to my stomach. Every time I read a story like this it makes me want to go to medical school to learn how to keep someone alive long enough to peel all of their skin off and then start lopping off the digits. One by one. Somebody get me a saline drip stat!
Aug 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nobody writes sociopaths like Ketchum. There is just such heart pounding immediacy to his writing, such an unflinchingly realistic approach. This book is no exception, Arthur Danse is as frightening as they come, the man is genuinely evil, though not without a hand in his upbringing, nurture (or lack of) is definitely the winner here, no contest. Arthur Danse happens upon Lydia, the way a hurricane happens upon a place, because Lydia's whole life has been a long chain of terrible men happening u ...more
Apr 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Andrew Vachss fans
This may be the best Jack Ketchum book I've read yet. Although other reviews suggest that this book is over the top, he treats the subject of child sexual abuse with considerable sensitivity and honesty. Also, as a lawyer I can say the courtroom scenes are the most accurate representations of trial and the family court system that I've read. He deserves some real praise for the quality of his research. I wish more people could have the stomach to read this one to see how our system utterly fails ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
Disturbing and tragic. Ketchum writes with such brutal honesty and sensitivity that leaves even those of us with the toughest hearts in tears. Child abuse is the most horrific act in my opinion. Worse than the child abuse here is how the system continued to fail the child.

Before Stranglehold, I had just finished The Girl Next Door by Ketchum. These two stories have left me emotionally depleted. I must pick something positive for my next read.
Glen Krisch
More brutal than The Girl Next Door, but with less heart. The writing is excellent as always, but there's a coldness to the characterization that dulls the overall impact of the tale. Still worthwhile for fans of Ketchum's work. ...more
Oy vey! This was a tough one ... boy, Jack Ketchum is definitely not for the faint of heart. He pulls no punches ever and this one is no exception. Just like his other infamous, traumatizing novel -- The Girl Next Door -- Only Child (previously published as Stranglehold) is inspired by true events -- and what a horrible and depressing story! Give me supernatural horror any day because at least then I don't have to brood about the real consequences for the real people involved. This one does ...more
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
Ketchum throws you down into the muck that is the worst of humanity, pins you there and rubs your face in it. If you haven’t read him before you should know this before jumping in. Stranglehold takes an unflinching look at the kind of real life horror that occurs every day. The kind of horror that trickles down, creating a legacy of pain and torment.

Lydia meets Arthur and falls in love. He’s decent and kind and a respectable business owner. But Arthur is a good actor. He’s a sociopath who believ
Jonathan Woodrow
Stranglehold is a serious piece of fiction. If you’ve not read anything by Jack Ketchum before, it’s important to understand that this is pretty extreme stuff, and not for the faint of heart. But of equal importance, it’s clear that the subject matter is just as horrifying to the writer as it is to the reader. Some horror writers seem to take a perverse pleasure in publishing the most extreme thing they can comprehend, giggling and grinning as they imagine their readers squirm. Jack Ketchum is N ...more
This is the tale of two books. The first book, which lasted up until the epilogue, was an excellent read, a gripping and horrifying tale of a woman suffering through a marriage to a psychopath who discovers after her divorce that he was, among other things, raping their young son. The story moved at a rapid pace, was well-written and had you caring about the fate of the mom and son. I was well prepared to give this book 5 stars.

However, the second book, the epilogue, completely shot that notion
Paul Ataua
We have to accept that violence, rape, incest, and child abuse are all a part of life, and we need to face that fact. While reading ‘Stranglehold’, I got the impression that, for this book, violence, rape, incest, and child abuse are pretty much all there is in life. Every chapter seemed to contain some heinous act. It soon got tedious, and then the tedium changed to curiosity about why people write this stuff and the real reasons behind why people read it, and then to just plodding on to see if ...more
11811 (Eleven)
May 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More disturbing reality horror from Ketchum that could have come straight from yesterday's newspaper (and probably did.) ...more
Nobody can make me so angry reading a book that I want to flip through the pages to see the end just to be done with it because of severe uneasiness the story is causing me.

Only Child is a realistic portrayal of the price women pay when they choose a violent sociopath as a partner, knowingly or otherwise, and then bring a child into the mess. It's also about how parents cover and make excuses for their little sociopaths.

I thought the ending was a bummer, though, because I came to care for Lydi
May 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. A very tense final 50 pages. This is Ketchum at his finest.
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2017, horror
Ketchum is a new author to me & while this is not horror as such it's certainly an horrific tale - that of an evil man who inflicts the worse kind of pain & torture on his family.

This harrowing tale - despite making me shudder at times & at others making me feel sick to my stomach - had me gripped, as disgusted & horrified as I felt at times it was really hard to put down. A really good read - although "enjoyed " seems an inappropriate word to use about it!
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great story teller. A sad story of a mothers fight against her ex husband over their son.i love the way that this story cuts in to parts of the past to clear up how and why people do things they do now. The husband being a self made business man also a self made pervert ,abusive man will not be told what to do.he is determined to have things his way no matter what.along with the struggle of divorce and life matters a killer is abducting women and brutally rapping,torturing and killing them.
John Beta
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars for punching me in the gut! I was angered and disgusted by Arthur, his parents, and the "anti-justice" system. I kept waiting for a turn to the good and it never came. Psycho-thriller it was indeed. I don't think I can read another Ketchum book. But who knows - we all need a little taste of the dark and deranged side every so often. ...more
3.75. This was a horror book, but not supernatural horror. No possession, nothing creepy in the dark. Not (necessarily) a serial killer run amok. No police putting their lives in peril to catch the bad guy, rules be damned.

This was a horror of the worst kind. Real people doing real things. Stuff we hear about on the news from time to time, shake our heads and express how horrible it is, then forget about it, thankful we aren't touched by the atrocities.

This was loosely based on a real case of
Dec 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
STRANGLEHOLD tells the story of a woman driven to desperation after discovering that her husband has been sexually abusing their son. As with most Ketchum novels, you'll want to take a nice long shower after reading this one. But I found myself more emotionally invested in STRANGLEHOLD than was the case with Ketchum's other works, and his depiction of the flawed nature of the American legal system was masterfully done. ...more
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Sorry but this didn´t freak me out at all. I read this kind of story a thousand times before and even thought the topic is very cruel, Ketchum`s writing bored the shit out of me. ...more
Chris Grams
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gruesome, disturbing, brilliant.
Highly recommend.
Carl Alves
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Stranglehold is a gritty, visceral novel that is totally Jack Ketchum. Ketchum pulls no punches in his fiction. His writing is not for the feint of heart, and this novel certainly fits that bill. In this novel Lydia McCloud marries Arthur Danse, thinking he is the man of her dreams. Things are good with them for a time, and they have a child. But Arthur is the ultimate wolf in sheep’s clothing. As time goes by, she starts to see just what kind of monster he is when she suspects that he is molest ...more
Collin Henderson
An extremely dark court room drama about a woman fighting to protect her son from his father Arthur, who is up there with Ray Pye and Ruth as the absolute biggest piece of shit that Jack Ketchum has ever written about. Like some of his best work, the horrific nature of the crimes arent used to exploit but to make a point. And believe me when I say that even though a lot of the horrible stuff is off the page, it will still make your gut churn and your faith in humanity waiver. It also has both a ...more
Tara Lundrigan
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, horror
Dark and relentless. Very disturbing. [4.5*]
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joshua Clare

Had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it and it's absolutely not the sort of thing I would normally read.
Bleak, grim, unsettling and deeply unpleasant I read it all in one sitting just so I could put the damn thing away and never think of it again. Deals with some pretty horrendous subject matter and definitely not one for the faint of heart or easily upset.
Jul 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up on a whim. Once I started I couldn't stop. The story was revolting and engrossing at the same time. It wasn't until I read the afterword that I understood this story to be, somewhat loosely, based on true life events. I'm glad I listened to my whim-impulse on this one! ...more
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
WARNING this book is extremely disturbing. It deals with very sensitive topics including rape and child abuse. The book was well written and forces you to continue reading despite your disgust at the events that are unfolding. This book is not for everyone.
Page turner, had to finish once I started. Would have liked a more complete resolution to the subplot, even though the answer was there for the reader.
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Dallas William Mayr, better known by his pen name Jack Ketchum, was an American horror fiction author. He was the recipient of four Bram Stoker Awards and three further nominations. His novels included Off Season, Offspring, and Red, which were adapted to film. In 2011, Ketchum received the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award for outstanding contribution to the horror genre.

A onetime actor,

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