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Friday, May 13, 2016

M.J. Arlidge, "The Doll's House"

Title:  Review:  “The Doll’s House” by M. J. Arlidge

Meta Title: “The Doll’s House” by M.J. Arlidge

Subtitle:  Detective Helen Grace interacts with A Doll’s House

Social Title:  A Doll House Mystery for Miniature Lovers

Review:  “The Doll’s House” by M. J. Arlidge. A Detective Helen Grace Mystery.  The New American Library, 2015.

As a connoisseur of all things doll and murder mystery, I had to read this book.  The title alone grabbed me and wanted me to include it in the second edition of my own book, “A Bibliography of Doll and Toys Sources.”

This is the third of Aldridge’s Helen Grace murder mystery series.  Set in Southampton, the style reminds me of Elizabeth George.  

Helen Grace, who is good at catching serial killers, including her own sister, has another serial offender case on her hands.  Young girls are being abducted, yet even when they disappear, their families receive texts and tweets from them. 

The chapters are old with alternating points of view, the latest victim’s, the killer’s, Det.  Helen’s, and her colleagues.  Some of her colleagues and superiors are intent on ruining her career, and their sneaky tactics make an interesting subplot.

One pathetically sinister character and his sister have grown up in a moldering, damp old Victorian house straight out of Dickens or The Cryptkeeper’s TV series.   To hide from their violent mother who drinks, they retreat to the attic.  Previous owners have left al kinds of rubbish there, including a doll’s house, described below:


“Once safe, they had turned their attention to the toys within the magic circle.  They stole valuable items from Dixons—Game Boys—as well as books, dolls and Tom Trumps from other children—but oddly the thing they kept coming back to was the doll’s house.  They had inherited it in poor condition.  The plastic windowpanes ere long gone and there were childish scribblings in biro on the roof that wouldn’t come off however hard they scrubbed.  But for all that they loved it, not least because inside were two small figures.  Once dressed in pin, one dressed in blue.

The adopted one each, naming them appropriately, and began to lay with reality, imagining themselves in faraway places, living unfamiliar, glamorous lives. King and queen of all they surveyed. It was an arresting fantasy and they played it every day . . . It was their world—their special world—and he still felt a deep pang of shame whenever he pictured the doll’s house’s sad end—smashed into a hundred pieces by his hand . .. What a fool he had been. . . He would have coveted the doll’s house had he still possessed it.”

The doll’s house becomes a metaphor for who the victims are ultimately imprisoned by their killer, in a contrived setting that reminds the reader of a large doll house.  The premise is similar to John Fowles’ classic, “The Collector.”

Years ago, the old TV show “Daniel Boone” starring Fess Parker featured an episode where an eccentric collector kept his treasures stored in an underground cave.  He had many unusual figurines and life-sized statues among them.  The story turned bizarre when Boone discovered a young girl, played by Mariette Hartley, entrapped among the treasure.  That particular collector also had a penchant for kidnapping people and making them part of his “collection.”  The book “A Gentle Madness” explores more mental conditions that have afflicted this type of “collecting”, in the past. I have to comment here that the sociopath’s featured in this book were sociopaths before they got interested in collecting anything.  It’s fun to play with the idea of collectors gone mad, if you will, and the authors mentioned here are not the only ones to play with the theme.  Yet, please remember that collecting leads to wonderful thing, teaches knowledge, promotes diversity, and inspires many trades and avocations.

This novel is fast paced, and hard to put down.  My only clue that the latest victim might survive was that so much of the story was told in her perspective.  This is a great book for those who want to explore the “dark’ side of life, and of collecting.

About the Author:

M.L. Arlidge has had a career in television for over 15 years,   He lives in England, and his other Det. Helen Grace mysteries are “Pop Goes the Weasel” and “Eeeny Meeny.”   Those who read the Alex Cross mysteries by James Patterson will note the nod to the use of children’s nursery rhymes. The latter book  has been sold in 28 countries.  For more, go to


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