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by Lin Anderson
Hodder & Stoughton, August 2010
422 pages
19.99 GBP
ISBN: 0340992891

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This book certainly gets off to a very creepy start, but then anything that mentions clowns is bound to raise the hairs on the back of most people's necks. A girl's mutilated body is discovered in the Hall of Mirrors in a travelling fun fair, her almost full-term foetus having been surgically removed. Forensic scientist, Rhona MacLeod, is called in to assist the police and has to unravel the mystery of some strange markings written on the girl's hand, presumably by her killer, and help police find the stolen baby.

The investigation leads in the direction of a group of girls who all became pregnant at the same time, but then takes an even more bizarre turn when a second girl from the same group is killed and an anatomically correct doll is discovered near the scene, one of a type called Reborns, made by Jeff Coulter, a psychotic inmate at a secure mental hospital.

I first encountered Rhona MacLeod in the previous book in this series and her latest outing certainly lived up to my expectations. The story is genuinely chilling, and not simply because it concerns the search for a baby quite literally stolen from its mother's womb. The books is as much a study of obsession as it is a crime novel and the idea of creating realistic dolls, crafted to look like dead babies and intended to comfort bereaved parents, was both striking and unsettling. Anderson provides a tense and clever thriller that doesn't rely on gratuitous gore to provide shock-value.

The narrative brings in elements from the previous novel, and although this book can easy be read as a standalone, it is clear that Anderson is now starting to grow seeds planted earlier in the series and that there will be ongoing plot development spanning the books. I was left sufficiently intrigued by both the main story and its subsidiary plot to want to find out what happens next, whilst also feeling that the book quite solidly succeeded on its own account as well, which I think is always the hallmark of a successful linked series. Followers of Rhona MacLeod are unlikely to be disappointed.

Linda Wilson is a writer, and retired solicitor, with an interest in archaeology and cave art, who now divides her time between England and France.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, April 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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