Doll House by John Hunt
This story begins with a young girl - Olivia being abducted off the street and held captive in pink room in a house along with other girls and being repeatedly tortured and raped for a period of five years, this is the 'doll house' of the title. She manages to escape and helps the two other girls escape by killing one of the men. The story then follows how Olivia adjusts to normal life and how the whole ordeal has affected not only her but also her father. Olivia lives in fear that the the second captor and the (warped) brains behind the entire thing, known as the ‘Jackal’ due to the Jackal mask he wore to obscure his identity will come back, and she is right to fear that as, as well as following Olivia’s progress in the outside world we also follow his and his obsession to get the girls back – in particular Olivia who he is in love with in his own warped and twisted way.
This was a cracking story, no doubt about it, the writing was superb, it was dark, very dark and you could almost visualise the different scenes as they played out, some of which were quite gruesome. The lead character – Olivia is extremely strong and likeable and you find yourself rooting for her throughout. Also the Jackal character was brilliantly written, he was the archetype serial killer – ‘cool, calm, detached yet totally bonkers’, his complete obsession with Olivia and how he rationalised it in his mind left you cold and the way he was written, so calculating and careful was very unnerving. Some of the secondary characters were a little clichéd especially the other captor known as ‘the Gorilla’ due to the gorilla mask he wore and the uncle, he was particularly dislikeable and quite over the top. The pace of the story was break neck, especially at the beginning although it slowed a little in the middle of the book which I felt gave it something more before it picked up significantly once more towards the end, if I am honest I think I would have preferred the slightly slower pace throughout. All the clues are there and you are told so much by the Jackal himself and by everyone else that if you pick up on it it’s like a neon sign which points out who the Jackal is, and I will say that I had figured out who it was about half way through, but having said that the writing was so good that despite the clues pointing to the obvious I kept doubting my own gut theory. So when the end came and I was proven right I wasn’t disappointed like I normally am when I have figured it out first, the ending is particularly shocking and then comes to an abrupt halt, and you are almost left thinking ok… so what happens now?! I am certain that was deliberate on the part of the author almost leaving you with a sense of anti climax, which is how Olivia would be feeling that, at last the man who kept her prisoner for five years and continued to keep her prisoner in her own mind after she escaped was finally gone.
An oddly compelling read despite the fact it really was unnerving and sometimes uncomfortable to read at times, yes I figured out who it was before the end but somehow that didn't matter - would I recommend it? It had faults but they were forgivable due to the overall quality of the writing, so yes I would.
I was aware of Meg Gardiner's crime-writing calibre before I read this book but have never reader her before. It wasn't until Stephen King recommended this book that I felt the need to pick her up. Caitlin Hendrix is a detective in San Francisco. She follows in her father's footsteps, he was a Homicide detective whose life fell apart during the investigation of the infamous Prophet case. The Prophet was never caught and Mack Hendrix was left broken, retired and ill - yet still always obsessed with catching the Prophet.
Now, The Prophet has returned, and Caitlin, a somewhat, forced upon expert is invited to help the investigation. This rakes up bad memories as her father abandoned her and her mother for the Prophet investigation the first time round. And she risks her father's mental state now. On the other hand she does have an internet, amateur sleuth come mother of three and housewife, Deralynn helping her out.
This was a solid crime read, keeps you turning the pages and the crimes are gruesome. The characters are even pretty well realised, but, and this is a big but, it feels like crime by numbers. Inexperienced cop with traumatic background? Check. Serial killer with a cool nickname? Check. Inventive MO? Check. Literary allusion? Check. I know most crime novels are formuliac, painfully so, but each successful one finds the elusive X, something that just grabs you and drags you in. Unsub doesn't have X. It was enjoyable but I fear I will forgotten it by the middle of my next read.
We all have baggage. Real friends help you carry it.
It’s 1983 in Boscobel, Wisconsin, in the southwestern corner of the state, known as the Driftless Area. Ellis Sayre is different. He’s a twelve year old orphaned Native American. His adoptive parents lost a son a few years ago and welcomed him to deal with their grief. While stealing day-old bread for a friend in need, Ellis and his two best friends—George and Mason—witness a murder by a local kingpin. Authorities disagree with their story. They call it made up. The boys are trapped, worried for their lives, sending them on a flight to Grandad’s Bluff in La Crosse, WI, along the Mississippi River. Two peripheral stories about Ellis Abbot—a World War II veteran, and Two Right Feet—an orphaned Native American during early 1800’s, are entwined to unearth Ellis Sayre’s roots. They combine to tell the truth.
- I really enjoyed this book, there was mystery, there was confusion, there were surprises and there was a heartwarming account of friendship and what it is to be there for someone. It's brilliant and especially cosy to read this time of year!