Happy Friday friends and welcome to a highly anticipated review. I’ve been looking forward to sharing my thoughts on The Puppet Maker since I finished the book about a week ago.
Before I jump into my thoughts on this fantastic book, I always like to take the chance to thank both Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources and the author Jenny O’Brien, for giving me the chance to read this book and share my thoughts today.
I really enjoyed The Puppet Maker. It’s been a little while since I picked up a book of this genre and it was a great re-introduction!
The Puppet Maker – Jenny O’Brien
Genre: Police Procedural
Publisher: Storm Publishing
Publication Date: 17 Oct 2023
Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟
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 her 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?
Heart-pounding and totally addictive, The Puppet Maker is the first in the Detective Alana Mack series that will have fans of Ann Cleeves, Angela Marsons and LJ Ross racing through the pages late into the night.
The Puppet Maker has a lot of dark and difficult themes. That shouldn’t come as a surprise in a narrative whose synopsis involves body parts. There’s a lot more to it than that, however. Poverty, abuse, illness and disability also have their place this book. It colours what could be a beautiful setting (and I’m sure it is when painted in a more natural light) into a city with an underbelly… and that’s perfect for this type of book. It’s gritty and highlights the less savoury side of life – something we are perhaps too keen to look away and ignore otherwise.
The plot unravels at a perfect pace to keep us readers on our toes and guessing what could possibly come next. Every chapter has a purpose, from setting the scene to sharing pivotal information. Overall, I enjoyed the balance in establishing the setting and characters with the action within. I enjoy both aspects, so taking time to make the most of both appealed to me as a reader.
I enjoyed the representation in our protagonist Alana. It isn’t very often we find ourselves with a detective with a disability. Alana’s disability is physical and the book does a fantastic job of illustrating difficulties wheelchair users suffer… even down to being able to perform such basic and mundane tasks by themselves. Taking the time to explore such detail within this complex narrative adds to the overall setting and makes for an immersive experience.
That said, Alana isn’t defined by her disability either. She is a complex character with a strength of spirit even before you consider her recent history. Alana has suffered more misery than the loss of her legs. It’s abundantly clear to us readers that this has a profound effect on her, but she’s doesn’t let it drag her down into the darkest depths either.
Alana is just one character amongst a complex cast. Whilst she unravels the mystery of a young girl and a missing parent, there are lots of other characters that add to this interesting narrative. Casey’s mother is also a really exciting character to read the perspective of. Could you imagine leaving your daughter in a supermarket in the hopes that someone will take her in and care for her? A lot of people might consider that unthinkable, but believe me, she has her reasons and those come to light as the book unfolds.
The Puppet Maker is multi perspective, which really worked for me. This writing style is my preference, and with this type of book and narrative it works really well to unveil plot twists and secrets to the reader in a timely fashion and maintain suspense until all the pieces come together.
The chapters are a great length. Each voice has plenty of page-time to explore their own stories within the wider narrative. At the same time, they are concise enough to get the message across and have us compulsively reading the next chapter for a further revelation. This balance, in my opinion, was perfect for the genre and subject of the book!
Each character and perspective has a distinct voice and narrative style, so we know whose perspective we are reading at any given time. With a decent number of characters to pull off, this is well managed throughout.
The Puppet Maker is a compulsive page-turner with an intricate and twisty plot line to keep readers engaged. It’s a wonder I managed to put the book down from time to time and actually function as an adult. Well, I suppose that’s a matter of opinion, eh?
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).
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