It’s review day!
Today I’m reviewing The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari. I received an ARC through NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.
Okay guys, this book is very cool. I can always tell when I’m reading a book by an experienced author as opposed to a debut, and Montanari is a classic example of why you don’t always have to read an author from the beginning to enjoy them. I LOVED this book, even though it’s #8 in the series – so don’t let that put you off!
Author: Richard Montanari
Paperback: 496 pages
Publisher: Sphere (9 April 2015)
Mr Marseille is polite, elegant, and erudite. He would do anything for his genteel true love Anabelle. And he is a psychopath.
A quiet Philadelphia suburb. A woman cycles past a train depot with her young daughter. And there she finds a murdered girl posed on a newly painted bench. Strangled. Beside her is a formal invite to a tea dance in a week’s time.
Seven days later, two more young victims are discovered in a disused house, posed on painted swings. At the scene is an identical invite. This time, though, there is something extra waiting for Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.
A delicate porcelain doll. It’s a message. And a threat.
With Marseille and Anabelle stalking the city, Detectives Byrne and Balzano have just seven days to find the link between the murders before another innocent child is snatched from its streets.
So what did I like about this novel? Why did I enjoy it so much? Let me just start by saying that it would take me an age to list everything I liked, so we’ll settle with just a few big things.
What I Liked:
1. Byrne & Balzano
Montanari’s detectives are stellar. Both are completely separate people with their own lives. They are completely real and completely 100% believable, to the point where I felt I knew their families like they were my friends’. Byrne is the more experienced detective of the two, but the pair have been working together so long that they are in sync and well-tuned to one another. Byrne’s relationship with Balzano was something I cherished while reading; knowing that they had each others’ backs made the novel’s foray into the creepy that much more enjoyable because I knew that they were looking out for each other and I, as the reader, could relax in the knowledge that if anybody was going to solve the crime, it was them. Byrne is warm-hearted and determined, and Balzano is shrewd and loving, all qualities I love in my detectives!
2. Bad guys
I have a feeling (from snooping through other Amazon reviews) that Montanari has a certain skill for writing the baddies. And if that’s the case, then this novel is no exception. Our killers Mr Marseille and Annabelle are so damn creepy it’s unreal – something that few other crime authors have made me say. They live in another world, one of tea parties and etiquette, documented with the same care and attention with which they treat their victims.
It probably helps that I’ve always been fascinated by doll collectors and old dolls, and I find them spooky at the best of times (I have ever since I was a kid), but saying that, I’ll give credit to Montanari for tapping into a common horror trope for his crime fiction. I mean, a lot of crime I read tends to fall kind of heavy-handed, with a gory crimey mess for the detectives to investigate. And that’s fine, that’s enjoyable, but there’s something about the creepy, haunting and the spooky that is even more enjoyable. Especially when our detectives are more than a bit creeped out themselves.
As I said above, I love dolls. That was what made me request this book in the first place. But scanning the summaries of Montanari’s other novels I can see that plot is something that this author does very well. Everything is planned and coordinated perfectly, all the pieces falling into place with expert ease. I would actually be intrigued to read Montanari’s first novel to see whether this is a skill that has grown over time, because boy am I impressed. If I could learn to plot 1/10th as well as this, I’d die a happy girl. Hats off to you, sir!
Can you see? This book has me crazy! I’m not even kidding when I say I don’t think there was anything I didn’t like. This novel was spooky and plotted with master skill, with characters I loved and villains I loved to hate. Amazing.
What I Disliked:
Erm, nothing? Actually nothing. That’s insane. Mr Montanari, you have rendered me as close to speechless as I’ve ever been. Thank you!
Please, please, go out and buy this book. Sure, read the others first if you must (I’m sure they’re just as good, and I’m going out to buy them now), but don’t put this one off. It’s amazing! Plus, right now on Amazon UK it’s part of the 3 books for £10 deal, so you really can’t go wrong.