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Following the closure of Mystery Women, a new group was formed on 30th January 2012 promoting crime fiction.
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Published by Sphere, 21 August 2014.
is known as the City of Brotherly Love, but if Richard Montanari’s Balzano and
Byrne police procedural series is an accurate representation, it appears it has
its fair share of murder and mayhem.
Doll Maker is the eighth in the
series, and the characters are already well developed. Kevin Byrne has a
dysfunctional personal life which includes a deaf daughter and a broken
marriage; Jessica Balzano is happily married to another cop, and has two kids
and ambitions beyond the squad room.
sets this pair apart from other American cop duos is that it’s the male partner
who has the highly developed intuition – the instincts which border on second
sight. Balzano is a good detective who knows how to read the clues and join the
dots, but it’s Byrne who has senses on high alert and hunches that pay off.
Doll Maker they are faced with a decidedly spooky situation: a serial
killer who leaves a doll at every crime scene – but no ordinary doll. Each doll
is meticulously dressed and painted to resemble the previous victim.
path trodden by the two detectives to solve this dark and cryptic crime is a
convoluted one, veering from Death Row to child psychology, and sometimes the
connections they make are far from easy to follow. But somehow the reader
trusts them to get there in the end, even if it’s sometimes unclear where
reader has the advantage of them, of course, because Montanari interleaves the
progress of the investigation with chapters from the viewpoint of the murderer
– or, since it’s revealed quite early and isn’t really a spoiler, the two
murderers. He does it skilfully, capturing the voices of the macabre pair with
a deft precision.
plenty of suspense to hold the attention; by the edge-of-the-seat final
showdown I had long since given up on getting an early night. Both pace and
tone are sufficiently varied to make nearly 500 pages feel more like 300.
I felt Montanari showed a tendency to over-explain in a number of places where
he could have trusted the reader to make the connections. But that was a minor
flaw, and a small price to pay for an absorbing read and the discovery of a
pair of intriguing cops I never knew existed before I picked up this book.
Richard Montanari was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the scion of a
traditional Italian-American family, which means he learned two things very
early in life. One: ravioli tastes much better than baby formula. Two: if you
don't get to the table on time, there is no ravioli. After an
undistinguished academic career, Richard traveled Europe extensively, living in
London for a time, where he sold clothing in Chelsea, and foreign language
encyclopedias door-to-door in Hampstead Heath. Needless to say, he hawked
a few more ties than tomes, but neither job paid enough to keep him in beer and
skittles. So, he returned to the States and joined his family's construction
firm. Five years and a hundred smashed thumbs later, he decided that
writing might be a better job. After working as a freelance writer for years,
during which time he was published in more than two hundred publications --
including The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Seattle Times,
and many others -- Richard wrote three pages of what was to become the first
chapter ofDeviant Way. He was
immediately signed to a New York agency. When he finished the book, Michael
Korda signed him to a two-book deal at Simon & Schuster. In 1996 Deviantwon the OLMA for Best First Mystery.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen,
and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but
never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher
for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now
burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with
books, about half of them crime fiction.