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.