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VINE VOICEon 29 January 2006
It's quite hard to do a summary of this novel. As with all the best Ruth Rendell it conveys a very strong atmosphere of its own, of lonely, maladjusted people living lives alienated from mainstream society, and an awful lot of plot is packed into its 236 pages. On the minus side it can feel very disjointed at times. There is little sense of time in the whole book, and years go past in the twinkling of an eye, which can make you feel uninvolved. It's like watching a very weird soap opera on Fast Forward! At the centre of the story is Dolly, a young woman who feels removed from society because of a large birth-mark on her face. She ekes out a living doing dressmaking for friends and neighbours, she is a borderline alcoholic, and the centre of her whole lonely existence is her younger brother Peter (known as Pup) whom she adores to distraction.
Dolly believes that Peter is a master magician, who can solve all people's problems using spells, and even make people die or disappear. The truth is that Peter went through an adolescent phase of toying with magic, but lost interest when he discovered the charms of the opposite sex instead, (Peter has a neat line in chat-ups, he tells every woman he fancies that he is still a virgin and they must show him the ropes!). They live with their father, a widower, who spends most of his time reading historical novels. Although somehow he seems to come out of his books long enough to marry a much younger woman, Myra, who is on the rebound from an affair with a married man. It is Myra moving into the house, and disturbing their cosy set-up, that prompts Dolly to press Peter for her removal, a sort of assassination-by-magic. Also living in the neighbourhood is a young Irishman, Diarmit, who was left severely traumatised by an IRA bombing, and who is finding it increasingly hard to hang onto his own fragile identity. Things start to get decidedly worrying when he takes to carrying a little collection of knives around with him in an old Harrods bag, and hanging about down by the railway line.
If all this sounds a wee bit odd, well that's because it is. It doesn't stop it being very readable, although I found Dolly's constant sighting of "ghosts" tedious and annoying (this is an irritating plot-device, which the author was to use again many years later in "Adam And Eve And Pinch Me", and I do wish she would stop it!). Fans of Ruth Rendell, like myself, will find this a memorable book, but I wouldn't say it was one of her best.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 3 September 2002
This has got to be one of Ruth Rendell's strangest books. All the characters are just plain weird. The writing is brilliant, and the psychologically unbalanced cahracters are drawn with an ease and assurance that makes the act of reading about them somewhat disturbing. The climax is completley unexpected, and it is in true Rendell fashion. This is one not to be missed. One of her very best books.
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on 3 September 2014
I reread The Killing Doll after some twenty years and I still love it. Ruth Rendell is very good in portraying the psychology of her characters, especially the minds going into pieces. I also like the way she describes the mielieu and the way of life of the protagonists, often very far removed from the country houses of Christie.
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on 7 December 2012
First of all, I'll begin by saying, I usually love Ruth Rendell books, she is a mistress of creating strange tales of dysfunctional charactors who by twists and turns of fate manage to get embroiled with some kind of murder/s or other! The Killing Doll does not live up to her usual compelling standards. The plot seemed too formuliac, a bit too standardized, almost too contrived; the charactors were too dysfunctional and had no depth, one never really knows just why they ended up such misfits. The whole story was simply unsatisfactory, its hard to pin point why. Her charactors had none of the quiet 'madness' that have made her other books so compulsive, I didnt really care where the charactors ended up or what they did, because they did not seem authentic to me. This is the first time a Ruth Rendell book has had this disappointing effect on me. I'm hoping the next one I read will recapture my love of her books, but this one, for me, was decidedly mediocre.
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on 10 April 2013
Ruth Rendell is as fabulous as ever in this story, and for me is simply the best! Enjoy as always!
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on 1 September 2014
The usual Ruth Rendell can't put it down book!
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on 21 July 2014
Another great Ruth Rendell, need I say more?
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on 14 October 2015
Very poor, even for her
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