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by M.J. Arlidge
NAL, February 2016
432 pages
ISBN: 0451475518

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE DOLL'S HOUSE is the third book in a series of police procedurals about a driven British police officer in Southampton, England. Detective Inspector (DI) Helen Grace is desperate to stop a serial killer before he kills his latest victim. She is also involved in a pitched battle with her superior officer, Detective Superintendent (DS) Ceri Harwood, who would like nothing better than to get rid of DI Grace because of her perceived insubordination and lack of respect. The DS is also jealous of the attention and the success of DI Grace in solving earlier serial crimes. There is also a sub-plot involving Grace's newly discovered nephew, who is her only surviving family, and who has also disappeared.

M.J. Arlidge's background is in television, and it shows in his carefully crafted plotting. The story line advances from the perspectives of a variety of characters: DI Grace, the kidnapped victim, the serial killer, DS Harwood and several other members of the police task force. More corpses keep turning up and we suffer along with the latest victim. The culprit is suitably creepy, and the members of DI Grace's police team are loyal and hard-working. Arlidge deftly keeps track of all the story lines as they intertwine through the novel. He also uses his TV experience in his character creation which is less successful. His characters are mostly portrayed as larger than life caricatures which may work in a more visual medium like TV; this reader found it distracting in print. DI Grace is so desperate and DS Harwood is so malicious that it was very hard to feel sympathy or empathy with them. It was also difficult to understand the loyalty Grace inspires in her team and other co-workers she is often abrasive, and not very likeable.

THE DOLL'S HOUSE was also a bit confusing for someone who had not read the two earlier entries in the series - this book did not work for me as a stand-alone. There were times I felt like I was coming into the middle of a movie (or a TV series). DI Grace had obviously had some shattering experiences in her background that caused her angst we were given very little background. I wondered how she ever made it into the police force.

It would not surprise me if this series were written with TV production in mind it would make a good mini-series on PBS. Stay tuned.

Phyllis Onstad has been a writer, editor, civil servant, teacher and voracious reader. She currently lives in the California wine country.

Reviewed by Phyllis Onstad, February 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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