Friday 9 January 2009

Forgotten Book - The Doll

Resuming my contributions to Patti Abbott's series, Friday's Forgotten Books, here is my take on The Doll by Francis Durbridge:

'This 1982 novel, based on a television series which came out seven years earlier, shows Durbridge at his best. The protagonist is not Durbridge's regular sleuth Paul Temple, but wealthy publisher Peter Matty who, when in the company of his brother Claude, a famous pianist, meets an attractive woman at Geneva airport. Soon he bumps into her again and learns that her name is Phyllis du Salle. An air of mystery clings to her that fascinates Peter – and when she vanishes unexpectedly, he becomes obsessed with tracking her down and discovering the truth behind her apparently secretive life. A macabre toy – the doll of the title – is found floating in the bath, an image that lingers in the memory.

The constant twists of the narrative, coupled with its unrelenting pace, make this a very suspenseful book. Although Durbridge was not as good a writer as Cornell Woolrich, and in particular lacked the American master’s ability to create emotional resonance in his situations, he was at least equal to Woolrich in devising storylines that tantalise and intrigue.

Almost inevitably – and this is also true of Woolrich – the solution to the mystery is a bit of a let-down and the explanation for the use of the doll seemed to me to be unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, Durbridge offers a very good red herring and a neat final shuffle of the rather slim pack of suspects. An excellent light read.'


pattinase (abbott) said...

And right now I could use a light read. Thanks, Martin.

David Cranmer said...

I've never read Francis Durbridge and this sounds like an excellent read.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

There's almost a horror feel to that book.

Martin Edwards said...

Durbridge really was a terrific entertainer. No great literary stylist, I admit, but very strong on suspense.