A serial killer known as the Doll Strangler may be back after a 50-year break.
The body found in Eborby’s Singmass Close in North Yorkshire shows an identical MO to the victims attacked back in the 1950s: the same ligature; the same type of vintage doll left alongside the corpse; and the same mutilation of the big toe, presumably hacked off as a grisly keepsake. Is the killer really the same person, resuming work after all these years? The press is quick to presume that the Doll Strangler is back, but it’s up to DI Joe Plantagenet to prove or disprove the headlines. His brief leads him to suspect the headmaster of Hicklethorpe Manor; the owner of Bridget’s Bygones, a doll shop; and an employee of a former doll hospital that stood on the site of an ancient orphanage where abuse was such a daily routine that some say the wails and tears of the young girls can still be heard. But there’s another possibility: The new atrocities may be the handiwork of Gordon Pledge, a child killer who recently escaped during a van transport. An interview with the sole survivor of the original Doll Strangler points Plantagenet toward tying together the old and new cases and quieting the orphans’ voices. Or does it?
Ellis (Seeking the Dead, 2008, etc.) keeps a steady hand on the tiller in DI Plantagenet’s second outing, setting forth her tightly controlled plot in a way that’s both cozy and creepy.