The Doll’s House by M. J. Arlidge (New American Library, February 2016) continues the story of Detective Inspector Helen Grace of Southampton Central. Although the plot is similar to other police procedurals from both sides of the pond, including the first two Helen Grace novels, character development makes each of Arildge’s stories unique. Helen has her own share of skeletons in her family closet. So, too, do the other members of Helen’s crime detection team. Subtle infighting within the constabulary adds tension to an already tense situation. Lives have already been lost, and other lives are at stake. A madman is kidnapping young women and imprisoning them, toying with their minds and bodies at will. Can Detective Superintendent Harwood, DC Sanderson, DS Lloyd Fortune, DI Helen Grace, and Newswoman Emilia Garanita set aside their family problems, their petty jealousies and insecurities, in time to nab a serial killer and save Ruby’s life?
American readers of British cozies will find the language familiar. Arlidge pokes a nose into the dark underbelly of Southampton’s working-class, smelling out corruption and decay. This port city of a quarter-million people, less than a hundred miles southwest of London, has its share of drunkards, druggies, perverts, and wankers. Southampton, with a crime rate more than double the national average and crimes of violence against persons nearly three times the national average, coppers in Southampton Central have their jobs cut out for them.
The Helen Grace novels aren’t great literature, but they are fun reads. The Doll’s House is fast-paced and complicated enough to keep readers reading to find out what happens next.