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Book Author: M. J. Arlidge

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.

EENY MEENY by M. J. Arlidge: Book Review

Two young musicians are hitchhiking home from a gig in London.  It’s pouring, but cars keep passing them by until a white van stops in front of them.  The woman at the wheel beckons them to come inside, then offers the couple a thermos of coffee to ward off the chill.  The next thing Amy and Sam know, they’re in a drained swimming pool, fifteen feet below its rim, with no way of climbing out.

Then the cell phone that’s been left on the pool’s floor rings.  A woman’s voice calls Amy by name, telling her there is one way, and only one way, out of their prison.  One of them has to pick up the gun, also lying on the pool’s bottom, and use it to kill the other one.  Then the survivor will live.

Eeny Meeny is a thriller in every sense of the word.  For no apparent reason, twosomes are being picked up by a woman, drugged, and abandoned without food or water at totally inaccessible locations.  Hours after they’re left there, a call comes in on a cell phone left at the site, telling whichever one of them answers what the conditions are–one must kill the other, the survivor will be rescued.  No killing, no rescue–they’ll both die.

It’s obvious that these crimes are not spur-of-the-moment ones.  Careful planning has gone into them, from knowing the schedules of the people chosen, picking the remote and secure places to hide them, and being able to rescue the survivors from their prisons.  Why would someone go to so much trouble to target these unlikely victims?

Helen Grace is a Detective Inspector of the Southampton Police, the officer in charge of what will become the hunt for a serial predator.  The  unknown suspect is not doing the killing herself, she is arranging for someone to do the killing for her.  As the abductions continue and the death toll rises, there seems to be no reason, no motive.  Until D. I. Grace discovers one.

Although Eeny Meeny is the first in a series, a lot of background is given to acquaint the reader with Helen Grace.  We learn early on that her job is her life.  She is “…six feet of driving ambition.  Never late, never hungover, never sick.  She lived and breathed her job….”  That seems admirable, until one asks why is her life so empty otherwise?  And there’s a good, if unnerving, reason for that.

Helen’s colleagues form an interesting group.  There’s Detective Sergeant Mark Fuller, formerly her most trusted assistant, now reeling from a nasty divorce which has separated him not only from his former wife but also from his young daughter.  Detective Charlene “Charlie” Brooks is the newcomer on the team, determined to prove her worth as an officer but holding onto her own personality by wearing her not-according-to-regulation outfits on the job.  And there’s Detective Superintendent Whittaker, annoyed at Helen’s outstanding record of arrests and convictions, just waiting for a reason to take her off the case.

Warning:  don’t start Eeny Meeny before bedtime if you want a good night’s sleep.  But definitely do start it; you won’t be able to put it down.

You can read more about M. J. Arlidge at this web site.

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