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THE DOLL’S HOUSE by M. J. Arlidge: Book Review

Detective Inspector Helen Grace is called to a remote portion of a Southampton beach to investigate the corpse found buried in the sand.  It’s the body of a young woman, pale and emaciated, with a bluebird tattoo on her right shoulder.  The force’s forensic officer, already on the scene, believes that the woman’s burial is not recent, that she could have been there for as long as two or three years.

What makes the scene even more painful for Helen is her immediate feeling that whoever placed the body there had done so with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be easily found.  Thus, she thinks, this is not the killer’s first victim and possibly, she fears, not his last.

Miles away in a basement is another young woman.  Ruby has no idea where she is or how she has gotten there.  The room is dark, without windows, and very cold.  Her last memory is of coming home to her apartment from a night out drinking with friends, gulping down a glass of water, and then….But how did she get from there to here?  And where is her inhaler, something she is never without?

At the same time as she tries to identify the body found in the sand, Helen is pursuing another search, a personal one.  She is trying to find her nephew Robert Stonehill, the only child of her sister Marianne.  Robert disappeared after learning the truth about his mother nearly a year earlier, and Helen has been unable to find any trace of him.

Using police computers and the confidential information on them to look for Robert is most definitely against the rules and would cause Helen serious problems if she were found out.  But she’s desperate to get information.  Her attempt to go through the proper channels has been stymied by her station chief, Ceri Harwood, a woman intensely jealous of Helen’s successes in past investigations who will do almost anything, legal or not, to discredit her subordinate.

Helen’s childhood was traumatically dysfunctional, and she brings a lot of heavy baggage with her to her personal life and her official position.  But none of that interferes with her drive to succeed or her ability to uncover clues that other detectives have missed.  If only she could regulate her personal life as well as she does her professional one.

I reviewed Eeny Meeny last year and thought it was one of the best mysteries of 2015.  Mr. Arlidge continues the high suspense in The Doll’s House, the third novel in this series, as well as giving readers a better look into what makes Detective Helen Grace tick.

You can read more about M. J. Arlidge on various sites on the web.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her web site.

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