A young woman wakes up in a cold, dark cellar, with no idea how she got there or who her kidnapper is. So begins her terrible nightmare.
Nearby, the body of another young woman is discovered buried on a remote beach. But the dead girl was never reported missing – her estranged family having received regular texts from her over the years. Someone has been keeping her alive from beyond the grave.
For Detective Inspector Helen Grace it’s chilling evidence that she’s searching for a monster who is not just twisted but also clever and resourceful – a predator who’s killed before.
And as Helen struggles to understand the killer’s motivation, she begins to realize that she’s in a desperate race against time . . .
So after waiting a year between reading M. J. Arlidge’s first two books featuring DI Helen Grace I decided I didn’t want to go that long again, picking up The Doll’s House from the library almost as soon as I’d started Pop Goes the Weasel.
Once again, this a cracking read, and each book seems to go from strength to strength – developing Helen as a character that you don’t necessarily understand but you feel a huge amount of sympathy for. This time round, she seems even more human and a little bit more humble as well, realising that she needs people and not everyone is out to get her.
I say not everyone but there is one person – maybe two by way of a bit of workplace pressure – which adds a nice sub-plot to what is a possibly more simple story than the last two books. It adds to an already tense narrative and helps quickly bring other, newer characters, into the picture (Helen lost members of her team at the end of the last book). Adding newer characters also helps keep the books fresh.
For the story, when I say simple, I don’t mean it’s not good. It is. Helen is once again confronted by a serial killer, one who takes young women and locks them away in a “doll house” where he tries to re-create a perfect relationship with another, long dead, woman. It’s clever and creepy. The killer just doesn’t have the complexity – for me – of the previous two books.
His motives were clear but – again, for me – less forgivable (bearing in mind that in the last two books I had sympathy for the killer as well as the victims, strange as that might sound). I think I maybe wanted a bit of a final twist, that explained him more, and I didn’t get it.
Still, I found myself turning pages at a rate of knots. M. J. Arlidge is a great writer, whose style I like. It is clean and punchy with short chapters that make you think you can (have to) read one more before bed or heading off to work. He has a way of bringing his story to life, and his characters, which I really like and means I also liked this book – a lot – and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good piece of crime writing.
p.s. if you want to know more about his first two books check out my reviews here of: