Monday, April 13, 2015

Psychological Suspense: THE DOLL'S HOUSE, Louise Phillips (Ireland)

Louise Phillips is a best-selling author in Ireland; it may take a while, in the current flood of imported crime fiction, for American readers to catch up with her. After her dark and complex debut with Red Ribbons, Hachette Ireland now offers her second book, THE DOLL'S HOUSE, to the U.S. market, in softcover.

Forget any notion of Ibsen or other dollhouse images -- in this case, a young woman, Clodagh Hamilton -- that's her maiden name, but it's the important one -- is struggling to hold onto her newly gained sobriety, while her husband batters her both emotionally and physically, and her desperate search for sanity forces her to investigate the long-ago family issues around the death of her father, Adrian Hamilton. Accident, or something more sinister? And why did her mother stop loving her, when she was just seven years old?

When Clodagh enlists a hypnotherapist to help part the clouds of the past, her frightening gains of memory turn her into a target for the forces of the past. As the plot lines tangle, it's clear that the only chance there is for Clodagh's survival will depend on criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson catching up with related deaths and motives, in time to reach the truth.

And the doll's house? That's the one from Clodagh's childhood -- the one where, each time she regresses to the past, the dolls take on personalities and sharp voices that warn and threaten. Sure, the voices are those of her own past ... but which ones can she trust, and which are childhood misunderstandings or malicious misleading?

The pace is tight, the emotions piercing, and the connections between Clodagh and Kate -- whom we've met in Red Ribbons and whose own life is rapidly fracturing around the end of a relationship -- turn out to be both significant and suspenseful. The clock is ticking, and there's reason to believe that destruction and abuse are multiplying.

No, there's nothing particularly "Irish" to this crime novel -- it's built on clearly inked characters, not on the history or traditions of the Emerald Isle -- yet the chilling criminal maneuvers subtly echo the evil that, say, Stuart Neville taps into so readily. Everything here depends on Clodagh and Kate. Struggling with them through the action, readers know exactly how vulnerable each one is. Does the perpetrator know this, also?

Author website here:

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