The Doll's House - M.J. Arlidge

In this twisty British police procedural, we follow three women as they attempt to survive the fallout from bad choices. It all depends on how you define "survival".


Ruby wakes up to find herself locked in a cellar, hand picked to play a role in the fantasy of a seriously delusional kidnapper. She had been getting her life back on track after a series of questionable decisions. But as days pass, she realizes there is every chance that life is gone.


DI Helen Grace is uncomfortable with life in the spotlight following the capture of a serial killer. Personally & professionally, it's been a tough go & she needs to get back to some proper detective work. She's called to a remote beach after the discovery of a young woman's body. When the autopsy reveals some surprises, she realizes this may be much more than a singular tragedy.


DS Ceri Hardwood is tired of the media darling status accorded DI Grace. She has painstakingly dismantled & rebuilt her major incident team, carefully selecting detectives who will be loyal to her. Now if she could just find a way to push Grace out, she'd have complete control of the Southampton department.


As multiple story lines unfold, all 3 women take turns as narrator. In alternating chapters, we are privy to their individual thoughts & actions as their lives intersect. Despite different backgrounds & social status, they have more in common than you'd think. Each is smart & resourceful. And all 3 are willing to sidestep the rules to get what they want. 

This is a fast paced thriller with more than enough to hold your attention. Fans will appreciate returning members of the cast mixed with new faces. The author does a good job of including personal details for a large number of them. These snapshots of their lives away from the job help define the character, providing explanation for their behaviour & motives.

Sharing narration duties is our resident bad guy. We don't know his identity 'til the end but we do know he lost touch with reality a long time ago. And he's Creepy...that's right, with a "C".

But the centre of the story is Helen. She's a complex woman (is that redundant?) who has success in her professional life. She's impulsive with a tendency to be more bull-in-the-china-shop than ballerina, which results in a few tight spots. it can seem implausible until you take into account her history. A difficult childhood & personal tragedy (must haves for good detectives, apparently) have left her damaged with a self destructive streak that makes dangerous situations almost seductive. 

Her personal struggles & office politics make up a large part of the plot as the investigation plays out. By the end, the lives of everyone in her circle are altered & there's no clear list of winners & losers. It's a well paced read written with fluid style that keeps you turning the pages, perfect for a road trip or long flight. 


This is the third book featuring Southampton detective Helen Grace. While reading them in order gives you a more detailed history of the characters & their relationships, this can still be enjoyed as a solid stand alone.


My thanks to Netgalley for providing this ARC.