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The Doll’s House by M.J. Arlidge (Helen Grace #3)

The Doll’s House is the third book in the Helen Grace crime series by the British crime mystery author M.J. Arlidge. I have started reading the series soon after book 1, Eeny Meeny came out, and I got hooked right away, even though it was the author’s debut novel.

Inspector Helen Grace seems to get all the hard and really strange cases. In the first book, the serial killer would abduct pairs, leave them without food and water, but with a gun, having a single goal in mind: only one person would get out alive.

In this third book (yeah skipped book #2 Pop Goes The Weasel, reading it now), we are again confronted with a twisted, yet equally clever serial killer, who this time not only abducts and kills its prey but also makes their loved ones believe they’re still alive by sending short texts and tweets in their name (no real spoiler here, this is also mentioned on the blurb) even months after he killed them.

To be honest, while reading this book I realized that I shouldn’t have skipped reading book #2 because while the actual cases are different from book to book, there is an underlying theme running through the series (so far) regarding Helen and her relationships at work and how it all develops.

Now that I’m reading book 2 since I know what will happen with some of the main characters, that has been revealed in the third novel, some of the surprises are taken away from me, making it all a bit less thrilling. So if you start the series, I strongly suggest reading them in order if possible. Do not skip a book, you’ll regret it.

Now back to The Doll’s House. So Helen Grace has to deal with this strange case where young women with common traits (long dark hair and blue eyes) are kidnapped and basically left to starve to death after which they are disposed of in remote locations.

The fact that Harwood, her boss, doesn’t believe her theory that the cases are connected makes it just more difficult for Helen to do her job right. And the fact that Harwood is, in fact, jealous of Helen and her success, and willing to do anything she can to get rid of her, is making Helen’s life truly difficult at work.

But the pattern is there, and Helen can see it clearly. Why is Harwood against her solving the case?

As the book progresses, we get to follow the two main storylines which eventually converge to paint a picture that truly took me by surprise. And honestly, when I got to the end of the book, I was glad of how it ended.

The many twists and turns keep you read the pages fast, but what I enjoy above all is Helen’s character development from book to book. There was something that utterly surprised me about her in book #1, but now I see how she’s growing and leaving some of her darker and less than useful parts behind. She still has lots of secrets and her demons to fight, but she’s getting there.

As to the author’s writing skills, kudos to him. M.J. Arlidge can really write and write well. And to say that he’s getting better with each book is not necessary because when you really write well, to get better only means to tweak here and there that knowledge and expertise and let the talent flow freely.

It’s been a long time since I was really taken with a new author’s writing, but the Helen Grace series is one that I’m looking forward to reading without hesitation. And now that book #4 Liar Liar is also out, I’ll start reading it as soon as I finished Pop Goes The Weasel.

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