The Doll's House
M.J. Arlidge
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Buy *The Doll's House: A Detective Helen Grace Thriller* by M.J. Arlidgeonline

The Doll's House: A Detective Helen Grace Thriller
M.J. Arlidge
432 pages
February 2016
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Detective Inspector Helen Grace: love her or hate her, you’ll never be indifferent. Grace ultimately prevails, the Major Incidents Team littered with either supporters or enemies, including Detective Superintendent Ceri Harwood. Their last battle of wills was significant--Grace triumphant, but only until the next opportunity for Harwood to show Grace her rightful place in the scheme of things: “She had lost the battle, after all. She had not lost the war.” Harwood bides her time as the team looks at two new potentially related cases: the discovery of a woman’s body buried on a remote beach, and the disappearance of Ruby Sprackling the night before she is scheduled to return to her parents’ home.

As in previous thrillers (Eeny Meeny; Pop Goes the Weasel), Grace is relentless in pursuit of serial offenders, the discovery of the buried body and Ruby’s inexplicable disappearance setting off alarms in her head as meticulously researched missing persons suggest an unnoticed pattern. Appealing to Harwood for more resources, Helen is rebuffed but only senses the depth of her superior’s animosity when she learns that her missing nephew, Robert Stonehill, may have surfaced in Northampton. When Harwood smugly denies access to the file on Stonehill--the only family Helen has left--Grace reverts to more devious methods to retrieve the information. Once more, the DI’s past is an obstacle in a current situation, an undercurrent of Harwood’s petty revenge vibrating beneath the surface of their interactions, Grace oblivious to the landmines in her path as she forges ahead.

Meanwhile, Ruby is in an isolated basement, her terror building each time her captor visits: “She had gone to sleep in her nice, cozy bed. But had woken up in a cold, dark cellar.” Ruby imagines at first that it is all a mistake or a joke, finally understanding that she is a prisoner, that the man who persists in calling her “Summer” has no intention of letting her go: “Like it or loathe it, there was no escaping that he was her world now.” But for DI Grace’s determination to find Ruby before it is too late, the girl might never be found, her screams for help unheard. Though the investigation accelerates, the killer’s identity is maddeningly elusive, Helen’s team--all but Detective Sergeant Lloyd Fortune--aggressively pursuing leads. Fortune appears distracted when she needs him most, Helen acutely aware of the new faces replacing her old team, her most trusted officer, Detective Constable Charlie Brooks, on maternity leave and about to give birth, out of the loop but fiercely loyal to Grace.

Harwood strikes at her nemesis just as the investigation breaks wide open, Helen refusing to be sidetracked when a life is at stake. Grace flirts with death on a regular basis, plunging into danger without a second thought for her own safety. This quality is both her strength and her weakness, attracting loyalty and enmity in equal measure. This is a protagonist meant to stand out, to cut her own swath through Southampton’s law enforcement community. With each new installment, DI Grace’s determination becomes more crystallized, her troubled history more relevant, her need to resist emotional entanglements more urgent. What is never in doubt is Helen’s ability to crack a case or take a risk. Fascinating, her courage in the face of danger often illogical, DI Helen Grace is not a woman to be ignored.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2016

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