Author Ben Haversham is condemned to writing solitude by his agent John. Ben has indulged in too many worldly pleasures in London, which resulted in the third part of his trilogy being long overdue. John puts Ben up in his house in Sandalwood, a remote village where temptations for Ben are scarce and he can hopefully concentrate on delivering a manuscript soon.
During his first night Ben wakes up at 3:10 exactly, being under the impression of having been watched but there’s no one present except an array of dolls, which he gives more or less charming nicknames. Unable to go back to sleep he decides to give writing a try. When the housekeeper wakes him late in the morning he discovers he’s actually produced four solid chapters without actually remembering doing so.
The army of creepy dolls and the very odd and disturbing paintings of debauched clowns in the house are not the only strange things to discover. Ben can see the Doll Museum from the window of his bedroom and where there’s quite some activity each night. Owner of the Doll Museum is the mysterious Marion Papusa, who has invited Ben for dinner on the weekend. Ben’s conscious and subconscious are telling him to run as far from Sandalwood as possible…
Okay, dolls and evil clowns … yawn, right? That’s what I thought before I began reading Doll House.
Ashley Lister has extracted elements of the genre that have been used many times before and put them together to create a ferociously brilliant horror novel.
Lister cleverly ticks all the appropriate boxes and pushes all the right buttons. From the first few pages on you can’t escape the mounting feeling of dread and you end up wanting to frequently scream ‘Run!’ at the main character Ben.
There are gruesome and gory scenes galore (halle-motherfucking-lujah!), Lister’s descriptions are very detailed with you standing right next to the characters, flinching, recoiling, holding your breath.
For me as a life-long horror fan it was a sheer delight to read Doll House. The story is darkly mysterious, the characters likeable and the villains are sinister and wicked. There’s the right amount of blood and gore and the often absurd erotic scenes will make you want to shop for brain bleach right away.
Lister’s powerful prose and wonderfully witty dialogue are a special treat, adding momentum to his lore, making the reader squirm with discomfort.
Doll House is a perfect lecture on how to write a horror novel and it should have its deserved place in every horror fan’s library as an instant new classic.