Book #26

The Doll by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir 

It was meant to be a quiet family fishing trip, a chance for mother and daughter to talk. But it changes the course of their lives forever.

They catch nothing except a broken doll that gets tangled in the net. After years in the ocean, the doll a terrifying sight and the mother's first instinct is to throw it back, but she relents when her daughter pleads to keep it. That evening, the mother posts a picture of the doll on social media. By the morning, she is dead and the doll has disappeared.

Several years later and Detective Huldar is on a boat in rough waters, searching for possible human remains. However, identifying the skeleton they find on the seabed proves harder than initially thought. As the mystery of the unidentified body deepens, Huldar is also drawn into an investigation of a homeless drug addict's murder, and a suspected case of child abuse at a foster care home.

What swiftly becomes clear is that the cases are linked through a single, missing, vulnerable witness: the young girl who wanted the doll all those years ago.

I was very concerned about reading this novel as evil haunted dolls are firmly on my nope list, alongside creepy children, things in the walls, and odd unexplainable noises. Thankfully, I was perfectly all right after the first couple of chapters, when the doll becomes a tiny cog in a huge police investigation spanning various cases, all of which are tenuously linked.

There’s so much to take in here, and I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. It feels like thousands of things are happening at once, all of them apparently related, and it’s a real joy to attempt to join the dots and work out what the hell’s going on. Some areas are predictable where others aren’t, but throughout the story Sigurðardóttir kept me engaged.

She has some really skilfully written parts, and I felt her pacing was well balanced. Her characters are mostly fleshed out and relatable, and although from their relationships I soon worked out I was reading a novel which was part of a series, the plot makes sense without having knowledge of the book’s predecessors. I did feel slightly disappointed with the ending - it felt rushed, and most of it was reported by word of mouth, so I felt left out and cheated at not being allowed to see things unfold for myself.

I do feel strongly that this has been poorly marketed as a horror - there’s nothing remotely akin to the horror genre here, and the whole thing has a far more crime thriller feel to it. Not that I was complaining - if that barnacled covered dolly was present in any more scenes than she was, or if she was described in any further detail than I’d already been given, I doubt I could have managed to finish the story unscathed.