James Nicoll Reviews

Home > Reviews > Post

Just a Goodbye


By K. Ancrum 

18 Dec, 2023

Doing the WFC's Homework


Support me with a Patreon monthly subscription!

K. Ancrum’s 2021 Darling is a stand-alone found-family thriller.

The Darling family has moved to Chicago. To teenaged Wendy Darling’s annoyance, her parents don’t allow the seventeen-year-old free run of the big city or even access to her long-time pen pal Eleanor. Instead, they treat Wendy like a naïve kid in a city — a city that Mrs. Darling knows for a fact contains at least one monster.

Wendy’s objections escalate into vociferous argument. This earns her a grounding. It does not, however, prevent an attractive stranger from entering her bedroom on a night when her parents are not home.

Peter Pan’s run-in with the Darling dog has cost him a sleeve of his coat. He wants it back. The broken latch on Wendy’s bedroom window makes her room the easiest point of ingress. Wendy finds herself dealing with what appears to be an eccentric teenaged boy.

Wendy sews the sleeve back on. This should have been the end of the encounter. Still annoyed at her parents’ overprotectiveness, Wendy agrees to accompany Peter to a party. The pair creep out of her window and into the Chicago night.

What should be a straightforward trip across Chicago proves anything but. Peter has an entourage of alienated youths, none older than eighteen, several much younger. Some, like Tinkerbelle, appear to take an immediate dislike to Wendy. Were that not complication enough, the police are very interested in Peter and his friends. Dodging the cops complicates an already complicated, increasingly scary foray.

Peter is not the charming teen he appears to be. He is something much worse. The police have struggled for years to bring him to justice. Now it seems that task falls to Wendy.


As no characters in the book comments on the odd coincidence of a Wendy Darling encountering a Peter Pan, I think it is likely this is set in a universe in which J. M. Barrie never wrote Peter Pan, either as a play or (more relevant to this work) as a novel.

This novel may not sound like the usual found-family story. But it is! It’s just that Peter’s found family is along the lines of the Manson Family, a collection of easily dominated dupes led by a charismatic psychopath. Peter can be excellent company when it suits him. By the time his victims begin to understand what he is, they find it hard to escape. Falling out of Peter’s thrall, if detected, is a good way to get him to turn on you.

Many stories feature re-imaginings of classic characters. Sometimes they’re just modernized; sometimes they’re modernized with a cynical twist (Scooby-doo is a demon in dog form! Jack Holloway is a lawyer! Sugar and Spice are jaded serial killers!). In Barrie’s book, the Lost Boys never seem to age. As Ancrum quotes from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie:

[quote] The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out. [/quote]

As Barries’ text makes clear, thins them out” means murdering them1. This book’s Peter Pan is just as murderous2.

While the ending is somewhat abrupt3, the novel effectively escalates the stakes with each chapter, as Wendy discovers how out of her depth she is and what it will cost for her to extricate herself from Pan’s thrall.

Darling is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

1: If you’re upset by learning that Barrie’s Pan is a killer, avoid finding out what happens to Tinker Bell in the novel.

2: Peter’s MO in this book is reminiscent of a certain criminal but to name them would be a huge spoiler as to this Peter’s goals.

3: The ending is abrupt for entirely logical reasons. I won’t explain further (spoiler spoiler).