The Killing Doll

I started this book several months ago after I got it from Bookmooch. I’m a huge fan of Barbara Vine’s how/what/whendunits (you almost always know who, in these stories), but even though theoretically I should also love Ruth Rendell’s books, since she’s the same person, I haven’t read many of them. However, eventually I ran out of Barbara Vine’s books, and so I thought I’d try a few of Rendell’s. I started with this early one, The Killing Doll, written in 1984 (coincidentally, a year I spent in England.) After a couple of chapters, I put it down with a vague sense of uneasiness, picked something else up, and just got back to it this week.

Chalk that up to Rendell’s superb sense of suspense, making me squirm. The Killing Doll is about the intersection of Pup, an adolescent dabbling in magic; Dolly, his isolated and obsessive older sister; and Diarmit, a young and simpleminded Irishman. Without ever letting the pace flag, she calmly dissects each character, leading down a path of madness and deviance that only seems inevitable in hindsight. She never sidesteps harsh truths or cruelty; she never leaves you in the dark too long. Each revelation is simultaneously a surprise and the obvious truth. She writes flawlessly, seldom using so much as an awkward phrase. I am going to have to savor the rest of her books – thank goodness there are so many! – and thank my lucky stars that she’s still alive and writing. 


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