The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari

Just finished reading The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari.  This is a thoroughly good, creepy, serial killer story.

The story gets off to a serious and fairly gruesome start in the opening scenes.  There was a somewhat scary prologue – the relevance of which doesn’t become obvious until fairly well into the story, followed by the opening chapters which present an elaborately staged murder scene.

The two detectives working on the scene are a very easy to read partnership involving Byrne and Balzano.  Apparently this isn’t the first novel that they appear in although I wasn’t aware of that at the time and i would most definitely be interested in backtracking and reading some of their previous tales. That being said this is definitely a self contained novel and I didn’t feel any confusion at all picking it up in this way.

The victim at the start of the story has been placed in a way that looks like a set for a play or some such.  Seated on a painted bench at a station she at first appears simply to have nodded off while awaiting the next train.  The truth is a bit more sinister and reveals an intricate web of murder and mayhem.  At the stage of the first murder an invitation has been left giving the date of a mysterious ‘the danse’ – when the date on the invitation comes round of course another victim is found – this time not only with an invitation but also with a porcelain doll.  And so a race against the clock begins.  The police desperately seeking new clues before yet more victims adorn these macabre scenes.

I don’t really want to go further into the plot because I think it would spoil the read.  I will instead outline the things that I liked about this novel.

It without doubt gripped me and kept me fully occupied trying to second guess what was coming next and I’m not too proud to admit that I didn’t manage to do so.  It also seemed to be fairly realistic in terms of police procedure – although I’m certainly not an expert – I felt like rather than ignore procedure in order to gain more of a dramatic effect it stuck to reality.  I liked this – sometimes things have to follow a certain route and a crime scene investigation is one of those things – and I didn’t feel that this sticking to reality adversely affected the story in any way – I preferred it having a real feel.

I liked the two main characters and thought they were easy to read with a pretty convincing partnership and enough back story and personal history to keep them interesting without bogging the story down.  I particularly liked Byrne although his choice of house buying is a bit dubious – and you’ll know what I mean if you read this book.

There is plenty of tension involved with enough wtf moments to catch me unawares just as I seemed to be getting comfortable and the ending really takes it up a notch or two and the plot is very well conceived and cleverly structured.

Basically put, this is a well written and absorbing chiller that kept me hooked from start to finish.  I can’t deny that some of the opening scenes were a bit nasty – and believe me, I really struggled for the right word there because they’re not necessarily blood thirsty or gruesome – well, I suppose they are gruesome.  I just wouldn’t want to put anybody off by saying this is overly violent or bloody because I don’t think it is.  The first few chapters made me wonder how I’d get on with the rest of the story but I pretty soon became immersed.   Its odd to say but the murders themselves are not overly elaborated upon and whilst, yes, they’re murders, they almost have an underplayed value to them – which sounds kind of odd but I can’t really describe it any differently.  I suppose what I’m trying to get at is it’s more about the motive and seeking out the clues than anything else.

I don’t read a lot of crime/chillers but I thought this was really good and I would certainly recommend it if you want something with a quick pace, a fair bit of tension and a murderous plot that will keep you hooked.

I received a copy from the publishers via Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

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27 Responses to “The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari”

  1. A Well Read Woman

    I feel like I’ve read this…. maybe it has a different cover.

    • lynnsbooks

      Could be – looks like there are two different covers – a blue one with a dolls face up close and a white one with sewing scissors??

  2. DJ (@MyLifeMyBooksMyEscape)

    My first thought – that is one creepy cover! I’ve always like these type of mysteries that focus more on the killer motives. Getting inside their mind fascinates and creeps me out.

    • lynnsbooks

      This does have a strong plot and motive. It was very gripping, I enjoyed it. And yeah, that cover. Dolls, clowns and dummies – aarrgghgh
      Lynn 😀

  3. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I don’t read a lot of crime either, but this one sounds really good!

    • lynnsbooks

      I try and mix up my reading a little bit – this one was good – the creepy cover attracted me.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Tammy

    This cover has creepy written all over it! It certainly sounds like a great read, thanks for reviewing it:-D

    • lynnsbooks

      Serial killer stories are always a bit creepily compelling aren’t they! And dolls – runs away.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Danya @ Fine Print

    What is it with creepers and dolls? It seems like the two are often thrown together in books, TV, movies, etc. There’s nothing worse than figuring out whodunnit way before the novel’s end, so I’m glad to hear that there were some good “WTF” moments! Also, I really like your use of the term “chiller.” Seems pretty appropriate for this one!

    • lynnsbooks

      It was very chilling – mainly the cold and clinical way that the murders are performed and staged. As though the victims aren’t really being hurt but are simply attending a tea party. *shivers*
      Lynn 😀

  6. jessicabookworm

    Glad you enjoyed it. I do love a good murder mystery, would have to be in the right mood for the gore though 🙂

    • lynnsbooks

      Apart from the opening scenes there isn’t really a lot of gore. The murders are not really dwelled upon or described. The opening of the book I almost had qualms as to if I’d continue but then the nature of the story went more into the detectives and their hunt for the killer – and the focus on the staging and motives.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    As much as dolls creep me out, this was the other one from Mulholland that really caught my interest. They are putting out a lot of good books lately, I’ll have to look into picking this up as well as When We Were Animals.

    • lynnsbooks

      I actually really liked both – both a step out of character because in both cases there is a decided lack of fantasy but they were kind of compelling for me.
      I’ve read a few from Mullholland and have been really enjoying them.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Ana

    I am reading this now and I am glad that you mention the prologue will be explained later on cause right now I have no clue how it could possibly relate to the rest. I am about a third into the book and enjoying it but I can tell it will take me a while to finish it. It must be the biggest book I have read in a while.
    Great review, as usual!

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks Ana. Yes, sometimes I find with these prologues I almost have to put them out of my mind otherwise they just infuriate me trying to figure it out. This one definitely fits in later in the story – you’ll have a lightbulb moment and think ahaha!
      I hope you enjoy it and I look forward to your review. Come back and post me a link just in case I miss it in the reader.
      Lynn 😀

  9. The Doll Maker | Ana's Lair

    […] that I needed to catch a breather from the genres I usually gravitate towards and, after reading Lynn’s review of this book, and looking at that gorgeous cover (shallow, I know!!), I ended up requesting this […]

  10. April brings the primrose sweet… | Lynn's Book Blog

    […] The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari […]

  11. The Rosary Girls | Bride of the Book God

    […] thanks first of all to Lynn because if she hadn’t written this review I would never have come across the work of Richard Montanari. I’ve read the first two of his […]

    • lynnsbooks

      Wow, I’m glad you’re enjoying the series. I actually quite like the idea of backtracking and reading some of the earlier tales.
      Lynn 😀

  12. Tabitha (Not Yet Read)

    Sometimes I totally get in the mood for a serial killer book. So I’ll keep this one in mind based on your praise.

    • lynnsbooks

      I really enjoyed it and in fact quite like the idea of going back and revisiting some of the earlier books.
      Lynn 😀

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