of The Dollhouse by Seasoned Horror author AJ
The Dollhouse, Edith O' Deer does for dolls what Stephen King did
for clowns in “It.” She makes fun childhood things into
objects of terror. This is a story dripping with tension and
intrigue. It's a story that kept me hooked right to the end where
the final revelations had me wondering just how O' Deer managed to
pull off a brilliant feat of storytelling. From its atmospheric
opening to its dramatic finale, the pace never lets up in this
wonderfully plotted horror tale.
At its heart, the story has real people with real concerns. O'
Deer knows how to flesh out her characters so that we, as readers,
truly care for them. At its center are the husband and wife,
Anabella and Brom. Only, it soon becomes clear they are far from
being the perfect couple. In a few deftly introduced details,
O’Deer makes it clear that this is a couple residing in the last
chance saloon. They've just bought a new (old) house as a last
hope for their collapsing marriage. The house, though, is in a
worse state of repair than their relationship, described as
"an ugly start for a new beginning." It's falling apart,
and some major repair jobs are needed to make it the 'home' where
they can raise a family. But it soon becomes clear that this
'fixer-upper' house won't solve their problems. At the first
mention of ghosts, the story's conflict is set up straight away,
which brings tension to the fore: Brom doesn’t believe in
ghosts. Anabella, however is a 'believer.’ An aching silence
grows between them. She craves for Brom to cuddle her in bed at
night, to protect her, but he thinks she’s being stupid, mocks
her, and eventually starts sleeping on the couch.
What follows is nothing short of breathtaking. First, there is the
terrible, visceral moment when Anabella believes she sees the body
of a baby in the stream behind the house. And this quickly
progresses through her hearing the shrill laughter of children at
night, coming from the cellar, and then later, when she goes down
there, amongst the junk, she catches strange sightings in the
dusty haze. She quickly begins to believe the house really is
haunted. But by whom? And why? What happened in this house?
The cast of characters increases with Adam, the hunky realtor. A
crabby woman lives next door, Mrs. Dowell, what does she have to
hide? Who is Rosalie? And then there are the dolls.
Underneath everything, this excellently wrought psychological
horror concerns itself with a couple in crisis. Anabella won't
have children until she feels more secure in the marriage, and
yet, at every turn, children, or children's toys haunt her like
echoes of her deepest, darkest fears. Channeling Rosemary's Baby,
the horror in this story lies in the psychological plausibility.
And Anabella's journey, one in which she must discover her inner
strength against all the odds, supernatural or otherwise, makes
her a true heroine.
O' Deer is a fine writer. Her prose shine through in passages such
as: "Brom turned hard eyes to her as if her answer hung from
the rafters by a noose." And: "Dragonflies flittered
above the water like little helicopters afraid to land." And:
"Cold air gripped her feet, her ankles then her knees, like
the groping fingers of the dead."
This is an excellent read for hard-core horror fans to bite their
nails over. And I am now a hard-core fan of Edith O’Deer.