REVIEW: Paper Dolls, Emma Pullar (2019)

When a bizarre set of murders take place in London, three flatmates become embroiled in the terrifying mystery.

Mike, Beatrice and Kerri all share a flat and a passion to move their careers forward.  When Mike, a frustrated mime in Trafalgar Square, lays eyes on performance artist Princess, his world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, Kerri is struggling to hold onto her job as a journalist, when she stumbles across a body, which turns out to be the third victim of the Paper Doll Killer. Beatrice, who was once a bestselling author, looks to the series of murders for inspiration but finds a lot more than she bargained for.

As the three flatmates discover they each have links to the killer they start to turn on one another. Who might be next? Why does the killer paint the victim’s cheeks and lips with blood? What purpose do the paper dolls serve?

As the deranged Paper Doll Killer continues to stalk the streets of London there’s only one question that needs to be answered … is anyone safe?

Available at AMAZON

Here we go again!

The dark mind of Emma Pullar, not content with disturbing her readers with Spians, Worms and unearthly dystopian landscapes, returns with her crime novel debut and doesn’t shy away from her twisted visions!

As the cover suggests, Paper Dolls is “A dark and disturbing serial killer thriller” and that becomes VERY apparent from the first chapter which throws us right in with the killer as they launch their “career”. Like SKELETAL and AVIAN before it, Paper Dolls does not shy away from the gory details and this book may not be for the faint of heart; I believe some readers have been put off by the very first chapter and judged the rest of the book on that opening. It is a literal gut-punch of an opening but to give up here is to give up on what develops into a tightly plotted, twisty-turny crime thriller that will have you guessing until the very last few pages. I certainly thought I had the killer pegged by the half-way mark, and then by about three-quarters of the way through and then again shortly before the end – but Emma kept me guessing all the way through and never made it easy for me – surprises at every turn!

The book follows the Killer and three flat-mates all linked to the story in some way. Kerri, a journalist, ends up following the story of the Paper Doll Killer; Beatrice, a struggling writer, who finds her muse through Kerri’s news articles and Mike, a frustrated street performer obsessing over “Princess” who he thinks is out to steal his spot in Trafalgar square. The book unravels each story “on rotation” each chapter dealing with each character in turn and developing their story from their perspective. This reminded me of the Girl on the Train which has a similar structure, exploring the same story from difference perspectives. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I liked it and felt it helped ensure the reader was kept on their toes throughout the book!

Paper Dolls is a quick read. Like Emma’s other works, I was drawn in quickly and made my way through the book in no time at all. This is in no way a criticism, it is a testament to Emma’s skill as a writer that she can draw you in quickly and keep you in, turning the pages as you desperately read to find out what happens next!

To discuss the plot too much would be to give too much away, so I won’t go into any details but, if you are a crime fan, then give it a go. If you are a fan of Emma’s previous dystopian novels, don’t be put off by the change of genre; this is still the Emma you know and love and she won’t disappoint. Any serious doubts that Emma had about writing crime should be gone – Paper Dolls is a fantastic crime debut and I for one will be looking forward to what she comes up with next!

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