The Doll Funeral, the newest novel by Kate Hamer, was a story that was completely different from any novel I have read lately. Marketed as a mystery thriller, I would have to say this one read more like a contemporary fantasy novel with a twist. Beautiful prose, a strong narrative voice and some mystical elements had me flipping through the pages.
The novel opens with Ruby, on her thirteenth birthday, finding out that her parents are not her birth parents. This tidbit gives Ruby hope, as she has had less than an ideal childhood, suffering abuse at the hands of her stepfather. As she goes on the hunt for her birth family, Hamer introduces us to a mishmash of misfit characters and weaves out their stories.
I loved the narrative voice in The Doll Funeral. The story is told (in majority) through the eyes of Ruby as she goes on the hunt for her birth parents in 1983. Ruby has a special gift. She can see death; mostly in the form of a shadow that she has seen for as long as she can remember. With “Shadow” by her side, she sets off on a journey to find out where she came from. Ruby’s birth mother narrates the other sections of the story, in 1970, as she explains Ruby’s early years and how she ended up with her stepfamily.
The story had a definite magical element to it. Hamer relies on characteristics of classic fairy tales to create a sort of eerie and hypnotising narrative. From the “evil stepfamily” to the enchanted Forest of Dean, I felt like I was in a story by the Brother’s Grimm.
Although I acknowledge the beauty of Hamer’s writing, I did not find that this one read like a true thriller. It was much slower paced and more focused on character development than a plot. I feel this one was not marketed properly. If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller, this will not be it. However, if you enjoy a story with supernatural elements that builds slowly, then you would enjoy this one!
I gave it a 3.5/5 stars.