The Doll's House
If you are unfamiliar with Tania Carver (the collaborative pen name for authors Martyn and Linda Waites) and the Brennan & Esposito series, you are in for the thrill of discovery once you pick up and begin reading THE DOLL’S HOUSE. The fifth in a remarkable police procedural series set in England, it is the best of the lot to date, an unforgettable tale that you won’t want to put down.
THE DOLL’S HOUSE is a fast-moving mashup of police procedure and a walk on the wild side. Detective Inspector Phil Brennan is not so much a fish out of water as one in an unfamiliar pond. Brennan, his wife Marina Esposito, and their young daughter have left the outwardly sedate and familiar environs of Wivenhoe, following the tumultuous events chronicled in THE BLACK ROAD, for the more metropolitan setting of Birmingham (England, that is). Marina, formerly a police psychologist, has obtained a university position with the psychology department as a senior lecturer. Brennan has asked for and received a transfer to the Birmingham Police Department. He is filling an opening at the head of the Major Crimes division, much to the chagrin of DS Ian Sperring, an older but junior officer who had assumed that the position of head man was his for the taking.
"Carver’s narrative, divided into short and fast-moving chapters, makes the pages literally fly by at an almost exhausting pace. All of the above makes THE DOLL’S HOUSE a terrific, if dark and disturbing, work with which to close out your year’s reading."
Brennan quickly gets his baptism by fire when a mutilated and murdered victim is found in a bizarrely staged tableau that is anything but heartwarming. What the reader knows that Brennan and the police don’t, however, is that the murderer doesn’t repeat his patterns, so that his killings seem unrelated. Marina, meanwhile, has a significant problem of her own. One of the more noted members of her psychology department hints that they had a romantic liaison after a faculty party, one that Marina can neither recall nor frankly stomach the thought of. She suspects that she may have been raped, but is understandably reluctant to tell Brennan. Marina does a bit of investigating on her own, and what she discovers ultimately and surprisingly dovetails its way into Brennan’s own investigation…putting both of them in potential danger.
A note here: Carver does not pull any punches in her descriptions, and though the sex and violence is not gratuitous, there are those who may find certain situations contained in the narrative to be shocking. Still, the scenarios that Carver sets up are extremely memorable, and there are any number of twists and turns as the reader is tossed one way and then the other before things are ultimately sorted out. For example, Carver takes a major player off the board about three-quarters of the way into the book, and does so in such an abrupt manner as to leave one wondering how she is going to fill the rest of the space.
I won’t give anything away, other than to say that the book has as intricate a plot as you’ll encounter this year, one that will keep you guessing until you’re within just a few pages of the finish line. Carver’s narrative, divided into short and fast-moving chapters, makes the pages literally fly by at an almost exhausting pace. All of the above makes THE DOLL’S HOUSE a terrific, if dark and disturbing, work with which to close out your year’s reading.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 19, 2014