Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Book Review: The Puppet Maker

By Sara Steven

The scrap of paper looked as if it had been torn from a diary. The words written in faint pencil. The letters rounded, almost childlike. "Please look after her. Her life and mine depend on you not trying to find me."

When Detective Alana Mack arrives at Clonabee police station, in a small Irish seaside town on the outskirts of Dublin, she doesn't expect to find a distressed two-year-old girl sobbing on the floor. Abandoned in a local supermarket, the child tells them her name is Casey. All Alana and her team have to go on is a crumpled note begging for someone to look after the little girl. This mother doesn't want to be found.

Still recovering from a terrible accident that has left Alana navigating a new life as a wheelchair user, Alana finds herself suddenly responsible for Casey while trying to track down the missing mother and solve another missing person's case… a retired newsagent who has seemingly vanished from his home. Forced to ask her ex-husband and child psychiatrist Colm for help, through Forensic Art Therapy, Alana discovers that whatever darkness lies behind the black windows in Casey's crayon drawing, the little girl was terrified of the house she lived in.

Then a bag of human remains is found in a bin, and a chilling link is made – the DNA matches Casey's. Alana and her team must find the body and make the connection with the missing newsagent fast if she is to prevent another life from being taken. But with someone in her department leaking confidential details of the investigation to the media, can Alana set aside her emotional involvement in this case and find Casey’s mother and the killer before it's too late? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

The Puppet Maker is so, so good. Like, the kind of reading experience where you don’t want to put the book down because you have to find out what happens next, kind of good. There are mysteries that reveal the culprit over time, and then there are mysteries that have already allowed you into the culprit’s world, fearful of what they might do, or who will be the next target. That’s the type of story the author has created here, and it worked wonderfully. 

There are different viewpoints provided that help to round out the plot, and I think it helped tremendously. The story is told primarily from Alana’s perspective–or Alan, as she’s best known by–but she can only relay her side of things, particularly when it pertains to the police and all they are attempting to do to save possible victims from death, or in this case, a fate even worse than death. I loved the connect-the-dot moments that tie in the little girl Casey with the human remains, and the victims and why they’ve been targeted. 

The pacing within the pages is perfection. Nothing was sped up or slowed down in such a way that would make me feel bogged down by plot points or events that delineate from the story. I felt like I was watching some sort of real-life crime scene investigation unfold in front of me, like I was one of Alan’s team members, trying to solve a mystery. At one point, we discover that there is a mole who has been working behind-the-scenes, leaking crucial information to media outlets, and when the mole is finally revealed, I was pretty shocked by that. The way Alan handles that situation was amazing and more than justified. 

I also wasn’t sure if in the end, Casey would be reunited with her mother. That sort of resolution could have swung either way, but the discovery of that felt like it was the right call. With how quickly Casey seems to attach herself to Alan, I really didn’t know how things would go, but I’m glad it went down the way it did. It looks as though this is the first book I’ve read by author Jenny O’Brien, which is a complete shock to me. I plan on changing that. The Puppet Maker is a definite five-star page turner!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Born in Dublin, Jenny O'Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around 3 teenagers. 

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You'll be pleased to note she won't be entering Bake-Off. She's also an all-year-round sea swimmer.

Jenny is represented by Nicola Barr of The Bent Agency and published by Storm Publishing and HQ Digital (Harper Collins).

Visit Jenny on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Visit all the stops on Jenny's blog tour:

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