Louise Phillips- The Doll’s House

People say that the truth can set you free. But what if the truth is not something you want to hear?
Thirty-five years ago Adrian Hamilton drowned. At the time his death was reported as a tragic accident but the exact circumstances remained a mystery. Now his daughter Clodagh, trying to come to terms with her past, visits a hypnotherapist who unleashes disturbing childhood memories of her father’s death. And as Clodagh delves deeper into her subconscious, memories of another tragedy come to light – the death of her baby sister. Meanwhile criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is called in to help in the investigation of a murder after a body is found in a Dublin canal. When Kate digs beneath the surface of the killing, she discovers a sinister connection to the Hamilton family. What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder? Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate. And the killer has already chosen his next victim . . .

Despite Louise Phillips’ first book Red Ribbons receiving some acclaim and having been shortlisted for the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year, I must admit that she is a new author to me. Always keen to discover new Irish crime fiction, I have once again joined the party late having read The Doll’s House– the second in her series featuring criminal psychologist Kate Pearson and DI O’Connor, aiming to unravel the implications of a decades old suspicious death in relation to the investigation of a current one…

I would say from the outset that if you enjoy the psychological thrillers of writers in the same vein as Sophie Hannah, Erin Kelly, et al that this novel sits very comfortably within this genre. With an exceptionally strong female protagonist pit against the introspective and grizzled detective, Phillips brings their professional and personal relationship to the fore with both characters being the lynchpin to the central plot. It is so important for a writer to construct credible characters that you genuinely feel engaged with, to counterbalance the demands of the plot, and this balance is difficult to achieve with sometimes one of the two falling into the shadows. However, Phillips achieves this with aplomb, and I felt totally at home with both Pearson and O’Connor from the beginning and enjoyed the interesting dynamics at play in their relationship and the events of Pearson’s personal life that unfold throughout the book as a wife and mother. Likewise, the surrounding cast tainted by the murder investigation proved an engaging study in the exploration of family and the ties of loyalty, with the character of Clodagh- a woman seeking to uncover the truth of her past through regression-being a particularly effective protagonist in the central storyline.

As Phillips skilfully intertwines the timelines of a thirty-odd year suspicious death with the very contemporary murder investigation, the actions moves swiftly and seamlessly between the two, and explores how past events get suppressed in the memory of the characters so enmeshed in the current murder case. This for me was the most satisfying aspect of the book as the exploration of the human psyche and the suppression of memories by the consciousness loom large within the plot. We see how criminal psychologist Kate Pearson delves into the psychological impulses of a killer attempting to unravel the sinister events perpetuating themselves in a tangled web of deceit and murder. Likewise, the notion of the psychological repression of memory being explored through the story of Clodagh, adds another interesting dimension to the whole affair. Apparently an overheard conversation about mental hypnosis, sowed the seed for Phillips’ exploration of the subject initially, and she has even attempted regression herself to see how hypnosis can return you to a state of pure memory, but how the subconscious tries to bar the way to realising this. Hence, the enjoyment of this novel to me was not only in the traditional remit of crime fiction to follow the investigation of a murder, but to bring to my attention a new facet, in this case the world of the subconscious, that enriched the reading experience overall. I will definitely be seeking out Phillips’ first novel Red Ribbons on the strength of this one, and am delighted to have discovered a new and highly readable author.

Louise Phillips’ debut psychological crime novel, RED RIBBONS, went straight to the BEST SELLERS listing in the first week of its release in Sept 2012, and has received phenomenal reviews. In 2009, Louise won the Jonathan Swift Award, and in April 2011, was the winner of The Irish Writers’ Centre Lonely Voice Platform,as well as being short-listed for Bridport UK, the Molly Keane Memorial Award, and the Penguin/RTÉ Guide Short Story Competition. In 2012, Louise Phillips, was awarded an ART BURSARY for Literature from her home city of Dublin. Her debut novel RED RIBBONS, was shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year (2012). Visit her website – www.louise-phillips.com , www.facebook.co/LouisePhillips Follow on Twitter @LouiseMPhillips

(With thanks to Hachette Ireland for the ARC)


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