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.
Rachel Jenner is a recently-abandoned wife who has primary custody of her 8-year old son. One day, she takes him for a walk in the woods and, with much trepidation, allows him to run ahead of her to an area where there is a swing. When she gets there, he has disappeared. The police are brought in and so we follow the course of their investigation and Rachel's horrible emotional strain, made worse by being publicly blamed for being a bad mother for letting him run ahead.
The book was compulsively readable and the plot twists in the investigation were logical and convincing. There's a moment when Rachel realizes something very important and so did I. Some of the other plot twists were less convincing, but not so irritating that I threw the book away in disgust. I didn't much care for the depiction of the ex-husband and his new wife--I thought Rachel was a lot nicer and more involved with them than I would have been. She does express frustration with the fact that she's perceived as the bad mother, while her husband, who broke up the family to marry another woman, leaving Rachel in charge of child protection, is never blamed for anything. In his defense, so does her ex-husband, so that was a good bit of self-awareness.
If you like this kind of thing, it was very engrossing. It keeps getting touted as the next "Gone Girl" or "Girl on the Train," but it has very little in common with either of those books except that Rachel tells her story in the first person, which doesn't seem sufficient to me.
I read this book on vacation and then came back to a whirlwind of work and taking our son to college, so am just now posting a review.
The book follows the police efforts of Woodrow Cain, a young policeman from North Carolina who has relocated to New York City in 1942 with the help of his father-in-law after his wife leaves him. Cain is clearly an outsider--others in the department mock his accent and his small-town experience. What they are missing, though, is that Cain is a tenacious and intuitive police officer. They should have been paying closer attention because almost immediately Cain is sent to investigate the first death in a case that has significant repercussions in the police department and other parts of New York officialdom. It appears that no one expected him to be successful and are unhappily surprised when he makes progress.
He's helped in his progress by an old man who calls himself Danziger. Danziger makes his living reading and writing letters between immigrants in New York and their family and friends back home. Many of them are Jewish and so more and more frequently, the letters from the people in New York to Europe go unanswered. It is very touching to hear him describe the services he provides and the sadness of not knowing, but strongly suspecting, what has happened to the recipients of the letters. "Their relations in Prague have fallen silent. It has been that way across the whole of the east of Europe for some time now. Candles flickering to darkness."
Although the main "mystery" is Cain's police case, Danziger is "The Letter Writer" and to me, he seemed to be the hero of the story. You end up with a great deal of affection for both of them and are particularly pleased at the piece of information that gives Danziger hope at the end, although it's a little too neat. Interestingly, the resolution of Cain's mystery is based on events that really occurred at the time, so I can't accuse that part of the story of being too neat.
I enjoyed this book very much and have recommended it to others who also enjoyed it.
Backderf went to school with Jeffrey Dahmer and after a few attempts he has created this fascinating comic about the young Dahmer and how his life went so horribly wrong. Dahmer begins as a bit of a loner, a strange nerdy guy who people think is a little odd. Then he discovers that his impression of his mother makes people laugh and he finds a wee crowd to hang with. His mother is a sad creature, suffering from seizures and seemingly vacant from her life as well as Dahmer's. It is her seizures that Dahmer copies to the hilarity of the others in his crowd including the author. The group begins to specifically create scenarios in public, using Dahmer and his impression, for their own entertainment. Dahmer relies on this impression for a social life. He drinks heavily more and more. Kills and dissects animals and it is just a short time before he starts on the path that led to notoriety.
It's a sad tale, made sadder still by the author's reluctance to address his own use of Dahmer as a party piece. Maybe he can't face that. He does express retreat, grief and sadness that no one intervened or could have stopped what happened and he does make clear from the outset that once Dahmer kills his first person that all sympathy for Dahmer ends. This book isn't an attempt to make us feel sorry for this boy, it's an attempt to reconcile two ideas of one person, and attempt to explain and chart a dark path and it doesn't feel exploitative in any way. The darkened that surrounded Dahmer came from many directions and this comic is an artistic attempt to capture a perfect storm that ends with horrific destruction.
The artwork isn't what you'd expect, it's funny and sometimes wacky. The characters are caricatures and it's clear that the author has great fondness for the people involved, he draws their personalities and this proves a great chance for the reader to get to know the people. Dahmer himself morphs throughout as he goes through many stages.
It doesn't sound like the most enjoyable book, but it is. It is sad and tragic but not excusing. It is brutal and wicked but funny. It's a brave attempt to say 'I knew him and yet I didn't'. Well worth a read.
Northern Ireland has long needed a really good police procedural writer. Until now, all those who have aspired have tripped themselves up with high body counts, high shock factor, obsession with paramilitaries or poor geography. Or a combination of the above. But Brian McGilloway has created a pretty regular detective - DS Lucy Black - operating in a post Good Friday Agreement PSNI.
In Little Girl Lost, a local businessman's daughter has gone missing and DS Black answers a call about a girl found in an ancient woodland on the outskirts of Derry. Of course, the case is not as straightforward as DS Black would hope and brings her into contact with all the local pond life and causes her to confront demons of her past. The plotting is taut and for the most part credible - although as in so many NI based crime/thriller novels the bodies do start to mount up. The depiction of modern Derry (and Strabane) feels authentic; the dialogue feels real; and the geography is right.
The characterisation does - as is so often the case in crime/thrillers - tend towards cliches and stereotypes although it is possible that DS Black and her family might get fleshed out more in future novels in what will obviously become a series. One suspects there may also be a love interest waiting in the wings.
I do wish, as a small point, that Brian McGilloway had not chosen to refer to DS Black as Lucy throughout the novel. Most crime writers stick to surnames for the police as it helps to remind the reader of their official capacity. Lucy sounds a bit "almost".
I look forward to seeing where Brian McGilloway takes this series - and may well read his previous series. Perhaps Northern Ireland had a good crime writer in our midst all along and just never knew.