The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan - book review: Exciting, poignant'¦ and utterly compelling.
As a senior commissioning and crime fiction editor, Phoebe Morgan knows a thing or two about writing books'¦
Little wonder then that her debut novel – a slow-burn and unsettling psychological thriller with a killer twist in the tail – is causing quite a stir.
A family-based drama with a dark edge that grips from its intriguing opening chapter to the shocking finale, The Doll House is a stunning first novel starring two sisters struggling to keep their lives on track as events in the past start to cast a long and menacing shadow.
Corinne Hawes’ life might look perfect to outsiders… she has an interesting job at a London art gallery and her caring boyfriend Dominic is a successful newspaper journalist.
But the sudden death of her adored father a year ago, and three failed IVF attempts, have left Corinne feeling fragile, nervous, and suffering panic attacks and bouts of ‘irrationality.’
Now her sister Ashley, currently trying to cope with three demanding children and a worryingly absent husband, has given her some money for another round of IVF and a last chance to have a baby.
And when Corinne finds a tiny chimney – startlingly similar to the one that adorned the doll’s house that her father built – in the doorway of her flat, it ignites a little spark of hope that this time the IVF might just work.
But as more items from that cherished doll’s house start to turn up, Corinne starts to feel afraid, realising that someone knows far more than they should, and that they have been inside her house.
How does the intruder know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And just what are they waiting for?
Brimming with menace, mystery, and a cast of beautifully drawn characters – including the hard-pressed Ashley and her achingly vulnerable sister Corinne – The Doll House is a brilliantly conceived and assured debut.
Morgan ramps up the tension through a series of disturbing events, sinister discoveries, and the voice of a chilling, unnamed character whose narrative is increasingly obsessive and threatening.
But this is also a tender and insightful exploration of families and the powerful bonds of sibling love. The relationship between Ashley and Corinne underpins this haunting thriller and raises the stakes as the suspense mounts, the pace quickens, and the danger becomes increasingly deadly.
Exciting, poignant… and utterly compelling.
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)