I really have been on a roll with the thrillers lately! I didn’t enjoy The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan or The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty as much as I enjoyed The Girlfriend and The Couple Next Door, but they were still great reads.
Find out more below!
The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan
‘This time the recognition is faster, the image pops straight into my head. It is small and blue, exactly as I remembered. A little door, broken off from its hinges, the edges of it sharp and splintered.’
Corinne is still reeling from the death of her father a year ago, and her three failed attempts at IVF when something strange shows up on her doorstep. It’s a tiny part of the dollhouse her father built for her and her sister as a child, and she wonders whether it’s a good omen. However, when more and more pieces of the missing dollhouse start to show up, she begins to fear that all is not as it seems. Someone is watching her, and knows too much about her life…but who is it, and what do they want?
For me, The Doll House was one of those books that I enjoyed whilst reading, but in retrospect, it wasn’t overly memorable. It’s a perfectly good thriller, with a slow-building, creepy atmosphere, but it certainly doesn’t stick out in my memory as one of the best I’ve read.
The character building was definitely one of the strengths of this book, as I found myself very quickly getting invested in the lives of Corinne, her boyfriend Dominic and her sister Ashley. Both of the sisters start to notice strange goings-on in their life, but frustratingly Dominic doesn’t seem to believe that anything is amiss until much later on in the book. The strain this puts on the relationship between Corinne and Dominic, along with the stresses of IVF, made for an interesting dynamic, and you find yourself wanting to shout a little at Dominic when he doesn’t recognise what is happening under his own nose.
However, I was a little baffled when Corinne finds the first bit of the dollhouse and thinks it’s a good omen, instead of being immediately alarmed, especially as she is a character who tends to be of a nervous disposition. I know if I found a broken bit of my favourite childhood toy on the doorstep, I’d probably be a bit worried, rather than thinking it’s good luck!
The ending was also a little predictable, although it was still dramatic and full of tension, so the fact that I already had a good idea of what the twist was didn’t ruin my enjoyment of it. Plus there was a couple of bits that did surprise me, and I was interested in the various characters’ reactions to the revelations.
Overall this was a perfectly good thriller if a little predictable. It won’t be a book that I’ll probably remember for a long time, but it’s worth a read if your a fan of the thriller genre, and seen as this is Pheobe Morgan’s debut book, I would definitely read something else by her!
The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty
‘When I told Jude about Emma, she laughed and called it a girl crush. I suppose it was. I bought her books and looked at her Facebook page and the photos on her Instagram account. There she was with Rob at a Lucian Freud retrospective at the Royal Academy, their heads curved towards each other like mating birds. A handsome pair, fashionably dishevelled.’
When Anne Morgan is dumped by the love of her life – who also happens to be her boss – it feels as if her entire life has fallen apart. Now single and unemployed, she’s in desperate need of a little luck when she discovers that her celebrity idol Emma Helmsley is looking to hire a housekeeper. Anne is immediately welcomed into the heart of Emma’s whimsical, but wonderful family, and everything seems idyllic. But gradually Anne begins to notice the cracks beneath the family’s perfect facade, and her own disturbing past comes back to haunt her…
The Housekeeper made for an enjoyable read, but I personally felt that it was a little slow-going at times. For example, it takes several chapters just to set up the premise, with two of the main characters Emma and Rob Helmsley only being introduced in Chapter 6 (20% through the book, according to my Kindle!). It’s a credit to Suellen Dainty’s incredible writing that I managed to stay hooked for that long, as she does manage to get you invested in the character of Anne, and really feel for her as she goes through such a hard time. However, I think we could have got a good flavour of Anne’s depression and grief at the beginning of the book in a much shorter time, and I think the book possibly could lose a lot of readers at that stage.
However, things pick up a little when she is hired as a housekeeper by her idol Emma – a woman who is famous for blogging about living a balanced, organised life – and her academic husband. I found myself immediately intrigued by them as a couple, especially the state of disarray they live in considering that Emma is supposedly some kind of domestic goddess according to her blog. This immediately made me suspicious of her as a character, despite how kind and welcoming she is towards Anne, and this feeling of something being not quite right is one that prevails throughout the novel, switching from person to person and keeping me guessing.
The mysterious pieces of Anne’s past are expertly woven throughout the story of her life as the Helmsley’s housekeeper, and it had me wondering how they would eventually come together to create a whole picture. However, this is also an area where the book felt slow, as you’re gradually drip-fed information throughout at a pace where it seems impossible to piece anything together before the big reveal at the end.
Overall, I’m glad I read The Housekeeper, as it was a thriller unlike any other I’ve read. There is no high profile solving of a crime going on throughout, or a mountain of building tension, just a steadily growing feeling of unease throughout that was very effective. However, I feel it could have benefitted in places from a bit of a faster pace, as it did lag, and I think less patient readers could potentially grow bored.
So have you read either of these books? What did you think? Are you interested in reading The Doll House or The Housekeeper if you haven’t already?