Helen had caught two serial killers already in her short career.
But would her luck hold a third time?
Publisher: Penguin Books
Book Links: Goodreads
M.J. Arlidge does it again. He's created a crime thriller that steals the show, with complex characters that inspire different emotions, and a structure that, surprisingly, works, despite it being something I usually hate. I'll get to that in a bit, but I do need to gush. The Doll's House is the third entry in the DI Helen Grace series, and so far, the author hasn't disappointed one bit. His tales are hooking, chilling and downright addictive.
Just, shut up, take my money, and give me more.
Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)
A young woman wakes up in a dark place, trapped, kidnapped, gone...
Not long after, another woman is found buried at the beach.
This one, however, is long past waking up again.
DI Helen Grace is on the case.
But this could be her most trying one.
With her own colleagues and superior working against her, Helen has trials that could derail her work.
Especially since it looks like another serial killer has entered her life...
Plot - 5/5 Stars
The Doll's House continues Arlidge's track record of fantastic stories. The blurb does a great job of raising reader interest instantly. The overall case is unique and full of depth, with the culprit and (current) victim being peeled slowly, their layers and lives fed to us over the course of the novel. The plot itself, as expected from this genre, is full of twists, turns, red-herrings and false pathways.
I love the social media aspect of the story, too. The killer, serial, of course, has abducted and held women before, and as more are discovered, you can't help but wonder why they haven't between reported missing.
Naturally, and chillingly, no one knows they are missing, at least, no one who considers it seriously enough to be effective. The killer keeps his victims alive by using their social media and phones to keep their families thinking they're alive. It's an eye-opening moment when we find out. It's also a sad reality of the internet today: You have no real idea of who you're talking to; if they are who they say they are. The fact that it's sly as hell just makes everything that bit more horrific.
There's tons to keep your interest. And that's before you add in the juicy parts, well, my personal favourites: Helen's and her superior, Ceri's, war. You'd think, with someone's life on the line, the two women would join forces, but uh uh. Ceri's a control freak, desperate to have the guts and glory to herself, and Helen, our hero who fights for the underdog, is in her way. The elaborate conspiracy that's in place within The Doll's House ratcheted my heartbeat to dangerous levels.
It's perfectly woven into the case, and the consequences of Ceri winning are deadly. Our main character has her work cut out for her, and once everything is firing the tension is unbelievable. The suspense is laughing in your face, and you'll be damned if you don't race through this book to the end.
Pace - 5/5 Stars
I was worried, because The Doll's House does something that's hard to pull off: It dives around character point-of-views like nobody's business. Thankfully, the author does this well, and I haven't a clue how exactly. There's just no disjoint, no hiccups or confusion, each character is instantly recognisable, the flow is awesome.
Other than that worry, everything is paced well. Tension and suspense, of course, drive the story forward, while twists and surprises keep the reader guessing until the end.
Characters - 5/5 Stars
I'll start by saying that every character within the novel, regardless of what we know about them, has presence. They're all interesting, and the more we find out, the more we're entrenched. Mr Arlidge deftly flies from character to character; the humanity and histories, as they're revealed to us, are deeply rich.
But let's get on to my favourites!
Helen Grace. Main character, hero and of course, top of my list. If you've started this series from the beginning then you'll greet Ms Grace as an old friend, but if you're beginning with this instalment, don't worry. Each book is almost entirely contained to itself, and while the previous entries give the reader in-depth knowledge, it's not needed. As she admits herself, she's already caught two serial killers, can she catch a third? Well, she's willing to literally die trying. She's determined, tough, brave, tempered with fear, self-doubt and heightened irrational emotions.
Her back and forth scenes with Ceri are written to amazing effect. They gave me goosebumps.
Speaking of Ceri, despite her being somewhat an antagonist in the story, I adore her addition, and the problems she poses for Helen to overcome. They're a lot alike, but where Helen is all heart, Ceri is pure selfishness. She cares more for her image and status, than with victims and effective police work.
And Charlie, a returning ally of Helen's. She. Is. Amazing! Heavily pregnant and still kicking ass. She's there for Helen when everyone seems to be against her.
Overall, the characters rock.
Writing - 5/5 Stars
The Doll's House is superbly written. A few mistakes here and there in the grammar and spelling departments, but I rarely care about that sort of thing. Especially when the story and characters come across so well, and everything is executed to such a high standard.
The structure is also a plus, given that the author handles the viewpoints and switches with such ease.
Overall - 5/5 Stars
Another fantastic entry to the series:
A hooking story with an action-packed, satisfying ending.
Deep characters that feel real.
And despite the novel's horrifying darkness, we still manage to end on a hopeful note.
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