Review: The House of Dolls by David Hewson (4/5)

Thursday, 26 June 2014
Where dark secrets lurk behind every door . . .

Anneliese Vos, sixteen-year-old daughter of Amsterdam detective, Pieter Vos, disappeared three years ago in mysterious circumstances. Her distraught father's desperate search reveals nothing and results in his departure from the police force.

Pieter now lives in a broken down houseboat in the colourful Amsterdam neighbourhood of the Jordaan. One day, while Vos is wasting time at the Rijksmuseum staring at a doll's house that seems to be connected in some way to the case, Laura Bakker, a misfit trainee detective from the provinces, visits him. She's come to tell him that Katja Prins, daughter of an important local politician, has gone missing in circumstances similar to Anneliese.

In the company of the intriguing and awkward Bakker Vos finds himself drawn back into the life of a detective. A life which he thought he had left behind. Hoping against hope that somewhere will lay a clue to the fate of Anneliese, the daughter he blames himself for losing . . .

When review copies of this book were being offered on Twitter I practically bit the publicist's hand off requesting a copy. I really loved the cover of it but only glanced at the blurb so didn't know exactly what I'd be getting. After finishing it what I got was a gripping and brilliant book that has left me desperate to read more from this author. I have seen The Killing in a book shop and it is massive. I'm not sure when or if I'd get round to reading it but I'd like to attempt it in the future.

I was particularly drawn to this book given its setting. I've been wanting to read more crime fiction set further afield for a while. For me reading a lot of crime fiction it's always nice to leave London or America (where most of my chosen reads are set) and go to a place I've never been to before in fiction or indeed in real life. It's up to the author to bring that setting to life for me and make it feel like I'm part of the book. I'm glad to say that David did just that!

Pieter Vos is our main character and he is now a retired detective who left the force after feeling that he has let his daughter down by never being able to solve her disappearance. However when another young girl goes missing in eerily similar circumstances Vos is drawn into the investigation and hopes to solve the case whilst possibly alleviating some of his own pain. You could really feel the pain Vos felt at losing his daughter and the determination he had was evident. Short, sharp chapters kept me turning the pages at lightning speed. 'One more chapter' always resulted in twenty more chapters. It's not a hugely original plot by any means but it is executed really well and held my interest throughout. The book features some really unique characters and despite having trouble getting to grips with a few place names and pronouncing character's names it was a very fast paced enjoyable read that kept me guessing.

Overall the book reads like a movie or perhaps a TV show. That's not a negative thing though, some of the best crime fiction works better that way. I would say though that Hewson has a very distinctive writing style and it may not be to everyone's tastes. In the very crowded world of crime fiction it's always hard to write a book which stands out from the crowd. In the world of Euro Crime fiction it's especially hard. I did really enjoy this book however and despite its length would have no trouble recommending it to anybody looking for a gripping story and a book that will keep you reading long into the night.

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