Review: The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari (4/5)

Tuesday 12 August 2014
Mr Marseille is polite, elegant, and erudite. He would do anything for his genteel true love Anabelle. And he is a psychopath.

A quiet Philadelphia suburb. A woman cycles past a train depot with her young daughter. And there she finds a murdered girl posed on a newly painted bench. Strangled. Beside her is a formal invite to a tea dance in a week's time.

Seven days later, two more young victims are discovered in a disused house, posed on painted swings. At the scene is an identical invite. This time, though, there is something extra waiting for Detectives Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano.

A delicate porcelain doll. It's a message. And a threat.

With Marseille and Anabelle stalking the city, Detectives Byrne and Balzano have just seven days to find the link between the murders before another innocent child is snatched from its streets.

It's been a few years since I read a Montanari novel but when I saw it on Netgalley I didn't hesitate to request so thanks to the publishers for the approval. Kevin Byrne and Jessica Balzano are two of my favourite fictional detectives. They are the police officers you would want helping you or your family if ever you were in a situation that called for homicide detectives. They both live for their job and when on a case care about little else but solving it, bringing peace to both the victims and their families. This has never been evident more than with this book. Byrne especially went above and beyond, I can't elaborate but all will become clear when you read!

In the opening chapters we meet Annabelle and Mr Marseille who kidnap a young girl. This young girl is then found by a train station sitting on a bench, dead. A note is found at the scene inviting the reader to a tea dance in seven days time. When the seven days pass two more bodies are found this time it's twins set up on swings, with an actual doll replica of the dead girl in the room with them. During the investigation we meet the parents of the victims who appear to have something to hide, but we don't know what. However it is the similarities between these murders and the murders carried out by Valerie years earlier that has Kevin Byrne eager to find out more, especially as Valerie's date for the death penalty is just around the corner.

As always it's hard to talk about the plot without giving things away. I do have to say that I did work out a pretty major plot twist in who the killers were and why however it was still enjoyable reading the book to see how right I was and how the whole thing would unravel. Mr Marseille and Annabelle are strange individuals, they see what they are doing not as murder but almost as something good. Annabelle herself is pretty confused when it's referred to as murder. Byrne becomes consumed with the Valerie case and how it all connects, the scenes with him in Valerie's old house were particularly atmospheric and gripping and wove history with the present perfectly. It's definitely a book that you won't want to put down until the very end. As far as twists and turns go this book is bursting with them. Plenty of shocks along the way.

Byrne and Balzano both face huge changes in their personal life in this book too but again to say any more would ruin it. Balzano's change is pretty huge and should lead nicely into the next book and I think make for some pretty interesting developments. In long running series it's always hard to keep things original and fresh but Montanari does not seem to have that problem and I am hugely excited for the next book to continue the story of these two excellent characters. A very enjoyable read and one of my favourites of the year so far. I'll definitely have to try and go back and read the books I've missed in the series.

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