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The Doll’s House by Louise Phillips

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Crime/Thriller

By Susan Condon, Writing.ie Crime Scene Reviewer ©.

When the body of popular talk show host Keith Jenkins is discovered in the icy waters of the canal during the early hours of a chilly Dublin morning, everyone wants to know why. With media attention gaining momentum by the hour, the list of potential suspects is enormous. Is the killer a crazed fan? A disgruntled business associate? An angry participant from Jenkins’ car-crash TV show ‘Real People, Real Lives’? Or a completely random vicious attack?

D.I. O’Connor and a new squad of detectives from Harcourt Street team up with criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson to profile the killer, in an attempt to narrow down the search. Two days later a second body is found in the canal, with no apparent links between the victims. Meanwhile recovering alcoholic Clodagh Hamilton attempts to unravel the mysteries of her past by visiting a hypnotherapist and ‘speaking’ to her childhood dolls. As Clodagh discovers more and more about her personal history, it soon becomes possible that there is a link between her and the recent violent deaths. . .

The Doll’s House opens with the haunting image of a seven year old child, ‘feet sinking into the sand, seaweed between my toes. In my arms I hold a doll, with curly blonde hair and sea-blue eyes.’ The reader is already hooked; your imagination begins to carry you off on another journey.

The second novel from Phillips is every bit as good as her debut, Red Ribbons, this time with much more of a slant towards a psychological thriller which fans of Sophie Hannah and SJ Watson will devour.

D.I. O’Connor and criminal psychologist, Dr Kate Pearson are drawn back together again, when within days of each other and with no apparent links, the bodies of two victims are discovered in a Dublin canal.

Pearson, juggling a number of cases at once and with her personal life unravelling, has little time to contemplate O’Connor’s brusque manner. O’Connor has his own demons to deal with, but the chase is on before the killer strikes again and this must be their prime focus.

We are introduced to a host of characters who, beneath their shiny facades, have less than idyllic lives. But without doubt, it was Clodagh Hamilton who, for me, stole the show. Hamilton is a recovering alcoholic who attempts to unravel the mysteries of her past by visiting a hypnotherapist and ‘speaking’ to her childhood dolls. Like Hamilton, we question the motives of those close to her as she struggles in her quest to make sense of her few shattered memories. Her tentative hold on reality and her race to find out what really happened ensures the reader keeps turning the pages, ever faster and faster, until the shocking truth unfolds.

The pace of The Doll’s House builds up slowly and skilfully to a mind-blowing crescendo. It feeds the reader with ample plots and sub-plots so that just when you think you know where it’s going, there’s another twist or turn.

I’m not going to spoil your enjoyment by telling you more, apart from sharing the fact that while reading the final pages of The Doll’s House I reached my bus stop. My heart was hammering, the tension almost palpable; I remained at the bus stop and pretended I was waiting for another bus – just so that I could read to the end! Only then could I return to the real world. I’m already looking forward to the next journey . . .

Louise Phillips is bestselling crime author of the psychological crime thriller, Red Ribbons, shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year, 2012. Her work has been published as part of many anthologies, including County Lines from New Island, and various literary journals. In 2009, she won the Jonathan Swift Award for her short story, Last Kiss, and in 2011 she was a winner in the Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice platform. She has also been short-listed for the Molly Keane Memorial Award, Bridport UK, and long-listed twice for the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Competition. In 2012, she was awarded an Arts Bursary for Literature from South Dublin County Council. Her second novel, The Doll’s House, another psychological crime thriller, was published August 2013.

By Susan Condon

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