Review: “The Dollmaker,” Amanda Stevens

Pros: Interesting New Orleans milieu
Cons: A bit muddled; yet another ‘unusual sexuality = murderous deviant’ equivalency
Rating: 1 out of 5

Claire and Dave’s daughter Ruby disappeared seven years ago, never to be seen again. Suddenly Claire catches sight of a hyper-realistic ‘portrait doll’ that looks exactly like Ruby, down to the birthmark on her arm. Before Claire can find anything out about the doll, however, it goes missing. Even her ex-husband, Dave, once a police officer and now a PI, doesn’t really believe she’s found something important, nor does the rest of her family. He’ll need to come to terms with it and fast, however, before the psychopath who took their daughter sets his sights on Claire.

 

Amanda Stevens’s The Dollmaker uses post-Katrina New Orleans as its colorful backdrop. Its characters are moderately interesting but not terribly surprising nor unusual. Claire’s mother seemed to be the most fully-realized of the characters, with depth beyond most of the others.

The plot is relatively good, although it didn’t have that taut, down-to-the-wire feel of a truly good thriller. The mysteries weren’t terribly deep, and there was little question in my mind as to how things would end. The tension wasn’t drawn out very well.

The part that actively annoyed me, however, is that yet again we’re given a view of someone with ‘non-standard’ sexuality as a psychopathic deviant. The fact that the psychopathy stems from how the character was treated is really incidental–the seat of the problem remains the character’s unorthodox sexuality. This has become a cheap way to manufacture psychos in thrillers, and it’s doing a real disservice to those people who don’t quite fit society’s view of ‘normal’.

All in all The Dollmaker was okay, but that last issue soured it for me. This book was published in 2012, well past the point where authors should know better; that’s enough to drop this book from a 2.5 out of 5 in my eyes to a 1 out of 5.

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