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The Dollmaker Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 2007

4.2 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Amanda Stevens is an award-winning author of over fifty novels. Born and raised in the rural south, she now resides in Houston, Texas.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Twilight always fell anxiously over the Big Easy, es-pecially when it rained. That's when the ghosts came out. A wisp of steam rising from the wet pavement. The murmur of voices from a hidden courtyard. Something dark and stealthy moving in the shadows, and sud-denly you were reminded of a past that wouldn't stay buried.

New Orleans was like that. A city of memories, Dave Creasy always called it. A city of secrets and whispers and the kind of regret that could eat a man up inside. Like the wrong woman, she'd get in a man's blood, destroy his soul, make him feel alive and dead at the same time. And on a hot, rainy night—when the ghosts came out—it could be the loneliest place on earth.

Welcome back, a voice whispered in Dave's head as he lifted his face, eyes closed, and listened to the rus-tle of rain through the white oleanders that drooped over a crumbling brick wall along St. Peters.

It was strange how the city could still seduce him.

He'd been born and raised in New Orleans, and like everyone else he knew, there'd been a time when he couldn't wait to get out. Now he couldn't seem to stay away. The ghosts wouldn't let him.

A car slowed on the street in front of him, and a child stared out at him from a rain-streaked window. She looked a little like Ruby, and Dave watched her until the car was out of sight, the pain in his chest as familiar now as his heartbeat. Then he started walking.

Around the next corner, a neon half-moon sputtered in the gathering darkness. He wanted to think of the light as a beacon, but he knew better. The Crescent City Bar could never in a million years be considered a haven. Not for him, at least.

As he entered the room, an infinitesimal chill slid over him. Welcome back, that taunting voice whispered again.

The bar was nearly empty. A handful of zombielike patrons sat with heads bowed over drinks, the only ac-knowledgment of their coexistence a mingling of ciga-rette smoke that drifted up from the tables. The old wood blades of the ceiling fans rotated overhead, barely stir-ring warm air that reeked of sweat, booze and despair.

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. Dave took a seat at the end of the bar, where he could watch the door. He hadn't been a cop for nearly seven years, but old habits died hard.

From the other end, the hulk of a bartender watched him with open suspicion. He was tall and tough, with skin the texture of leather. Jubal Roach had to be at least sixty, but the forearms underneath his rolled-up shirtsleeves bulged with muscle, and his sullen expres-sion reflected, as Dave knew only too well, a still-mur-derous disposition.

Dave's old partner had once warned him about Jubal's temper. They'd stopped in for a beer after their watch one night and the surly bartender had copped an attitude from the get-go. Back in the day, Dave hadn't been one to turn the other cheek.

"Man, let it go," Titus had said in a nervous whis-per. "You don't want to tangle with that S.O.B. Once he start in whaling on you, he like a big 'ol loggerhead. He ain't gonna let you go till it thunders. Or till you dead."

It was good advice. Too bad Dave hadn't had the sense to heed it.

He and Jubal played the staring game for several more seconds, then, with a hardening of his features, the older man ambled down to Dave's end of the bar.

"Jubal." Dave greeted him warily, mindful of the nightstick and brass knuckles the bartender kept under the counter. "How's it going?"

"Dave Creasy. Been a while since I saw your ugly mug in here. Kinda thought you might be dead."

Kinda hoped was the inference. "I bought a place in St. Mary Parish awhile back."

"Same difference, you ask me." Jubal got down a glass and a bottle of whiskey. "The usual?"

"Nah, I'm on the wagon these days."

"Since when?"

Eight months, four days, nine hours and counting.

"Since the last time I got thrown in jail for disorderly conduct."

Jubal's gold tooth flashed in the light from the Abita Purple Haze sign over the bar.

Dave touched the area over his left eye. His memo-ries of that night had faded, but the scar hadn't. It had taken him two days to get out of the drunk tank, an-other five before he'd stumbled into the nearest emer-gency room with a raging fever. The infection had laid him flat for nearly two weeks, and by the time he got out of the hospital, fifteen pounds lighter, a jagged scar was the least of his worries.

"You're lucky you didn't lose your eye," the young intern had scolded him. "However, at the moment, I'm more concerned about your liver. You have what is known as alcohol hepatitis, which can be treated but only if alcohol consumption is stopped. Otherwise, this condition is likely to cause cirrhosis, Mr. Creasy," he'd stated bluntly. "If you don't stop drinking, there's a good chance you won't make it to your fortieth birth-day."

Dave wasn't particularly worried about dying, but he would prefer not to go out the way his old man had. So he'd stopped drinking, again, started going back to AA, and he'd moved down to Morgan City to work part-time for his uncle while reopening Creasy Investi-gations. Marsilius had found him a little house on the bayou where he could live and set up shop until he was able to afford office space in town. The only problem with that arrangement was that his uncle now consid-ered it his moral duty to keep Dave on the straight and narrow.

As if testing Dave's resolve, Jubal poured a shot of Jack Daniel's and slid the tumbler across the bar. "First one's on the house. For old times' sake."

"No thanks, but I'll take a cup of that coffee I smell brewing."

"Suit yourself." Jubal filled a cup and passed it to Dave. "If you're not drinking, what brings you in here?" "I'm meeting someone." Dave lifted the cup and took a sip of the strong chicory blend. The coffee was hot. It scalded his tongue and he swore as the front door swung open. And in walked Angelette Lapierre.

She stood in the doorway taking stock of the room just as she always did. That was Dave's first memory of her, the way she'd planted herself on the threshold of the captain's office, her gaze sweeping the room as the group of homicide detectives huddled over a map had looked up with a collective indrawn breath.

Dave had been married back then and in love with his wife, but he couldn't help noticing Angelette. Dark-haired, dark-eyed, she'd had that dog-in-heat quality that drew men to her side and made any woman unfor-tunate enough to be in the same room dislike her on sight.

Dave had tried to ignore her, but later in the crowded squad room, he'd glanced up to find her watching him, and her slow smile had sent a shiver down his back-bone. Something that might have been a warning glinted in her sultry eyes that day, and Dave would later wish that he'd taken heed of it.

But instead, he'd told himself there was no harm in looking. What Claire didn't know wouldn't hurt her.


Dave winced at the memory. He didn't want to think about her at that moment. He didn't want to think about her ever. She was a part of his past. One of the ghosts that came out to haunt him on rainy summer nights.

But he couldn't help himself. He closed his eyes briefly as an image of his ex-wife appeared in his head. She wasn't as curvy or as beautiful as Angelette, but her appeal was far more dangerous because she was the kind of woman you could never get out of your sys-tem. No matter how much you drank.

As if she was reading his mind, Angelette's expres-sion hardened. Her gaze seemed to pierce right through him, and then she blinked and the daggers were gone. The familiar smile flashed, dazzled, even as her chin lifted in defiance.

Same old Angelette.

She wore a blue dress, transparent from where she stood in the doorway. Jubal leaned an elbow on the bar and swore under his breath. Together he and Dave watched her walk with fluid grace to the stool next to Dave's, a whiff of something seductive preceding her.

Still smiling, she placed her purse on the bar and crossed her legs, letting that blue dress skate up her slender thighs.

"I don't want no trouble," Jubal warned.

She tossed back her dark hair and laughed. "I don't want any trouble, either."

"You start throwing beer bottles like you did last time, I'm calling the law on both of you."

"I am the law, remember?" She laughed again, but her amusement didn't quite reach her eyes. "Just relax, okay? Dave and I kissed and made up a long time ago. Didn't we, Dave?"

"If you say so." He was all for letting bygones be bygones, but when Angelette leaned over to brush her lips against his, he couldn't help tensing.

Her gaze lit on the scar above his eye. "Wow. Did I do that?"

"Better than a tattoo."

"Speaking of tattoos, I got myself a new one. Re-mind me to show it to you sometime."

Dave let that one go. He might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, as Marsilius frequently pointed out, but he'd learned his lesson with Angelette.

Not getting the response she wanted, she turned to Jubal. "Double whiskey."

There was something about Angelette that Dave hadn't remembered from before. She'd always had an edge. Had always been able to give as good as she got. An ambitious female detective had to know how to handle herself in a man's world. But it wasn't that. It wasn't her years as a cop that had given her face a brit-tle veneer. It was selling out. Being on the take for too long had chipped away at her sensuality and left in its wake something hard and unpleasant and faintly dec-adent.

Dave cradled his cup, gratified to note that his hands no longer trembled. He hadn't felt this steady in years. "So how did the anger management classes go?" He knew the question was likely to set her off. Angelette didn't like being called on her bullshit—by him or by the judge who'd ordered her into the classes—but Dave couldn't resist goading her a little.

She surprised him. Instead of ris...


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Mira (March 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0778324281
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778324287
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,311,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Deborah Wiley VINE VOICE on April 24, 2007
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You'll never look at dolls in quite the same way again after reading THE DOLLMAKER!

Seven years ago, Ruby was kidnapped, leaving behind the shattered marriage of her parents, Claire Doucett and Dave Creasy. Both Claire and Dave have struggled to pick up the pieces of their own lives, but now the past is pulling them back together. The appearance of a portrait doll with the exact likeness of Ruby may be a clue to what happened to Ruby, if only anyone is willing to believe Claire. Will Dave help Claire discover what really happened to Ruby or will the secrets of the past destroy them all?

THE DOLLMAKER is perhaps the creepiest book I've read in a long time! Amanda Stevens does a superb job at creating an eerie atmosphere that doesn't rely on gore or gratuitous violence. Instead, the tension is carefully built up with some truly horrifying twists to keep readers on their toes. While the reader will likely deduce aspects of the ending, there are some wickedly clever surprises in store that make this an absolutely phenomenal thriller.

Claire and Dave are not the usual sort of heroes for a thriller. Both are tortured by their past choices. Claire is in the midst of her second divorce and still sees Ruby everywhere she turns, while Dave struggles one day at a time to defeat the urge to pick up the bottle. Their private battles make THE DOLLMAKER a stronger novel as Claire and Dave seek their own sort of redemption after the loss of both Ruby and their marriage.

THE DOLLMAKER is an edgier story than many may expect as the author strives hard to remain true to the story and the characters. Those looking for the typical romantic suspense thriller will probably be a bit shocked by this story as Amanda Stevens definitely steps outside the box with this one. THE DOLLMAKER certainly has me eyeing dolls in an entirely different light! Fantastic job, Ms. Stevens!

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The Dollmaker is one of the best thrillers I have read in years! Stevens creates a perfect mix of allowing the reader to have enough clues --- and even to hear the voice of the perpetrator --- to understand the interlacing psychological aspects behind the characters and to maintain the suspense. Nevertheless, she withholds just enough to peak the reader's interest on every page. I was drawn into her characters, their weaknesses and depth and watching them change as the story developed. Even though the reader knows certain aspects of the ending from the very beginning, the suspense builds and builds. The ending has unexpected, shocking surprises. Everything is not all tied up with a pretty bow at the end, and yet the reader feels very satisfied. The ending was well-planned....a surprise and one also true to the characters.

A doll....normally such an innocent charming item certainly gets transformed here! Delightfully creepy!

Even days after finishing the last page, I am still delighted with this book. The imagery, the haunting Southern setting and the amazing writing captured my interest then and now. Amanda Stevens keeps all the spine tingles and darkness AND did it without crossing that line into gratuitous (and often boring) gore and violence too common in lesser works in the genre. Bravo!

Warning: This book may cause you to remain awake until 3 or 4am reading.
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I've been an Amanda Stevens fan a long time, but this book blew me away. The villain is excellently crafted and the protagonists literally jump off the pages with their realism and emotional depth. Stevens handles a distrubing situation that could have come right out of the morning newspaper with credence and spellbinding suspense. Don't miss this one.
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4.5 out of 5 stars

The cover of The Dollmaker was what first drew me, its shadowy blue and green tones, and the doll's face, particularly the eye. I found it mesmerizing and was drawn to it many times before I bought it. And when I did, I wasn't disappointed. It's a story about tragic loss--the abduction of a child and the resulting destruction of a marriage.

Claire Doucett's life spins out of control from the moment she glimpses a doll that looks exactly like her missing daughter Ruby, right down to an identical birthmark on the doll's arm. To complicate matters, no one believes her and the doll mysteriously disappears.

Then Claire's ex-husband Dave, a former cop and alcoholic who is investigating the murder of a stripper, comes back to town. He's looking for answers in the stripper's death, but also searching for resolution in a cold case--one that has haunted him because it is linked to his daughter's disappearance.

The plot lines are woven meticulously, connecting then separating, making for a very interesting read. The New Orleans setting is perfect (especially with the Katrina references and haunting visuals), the characters compelling and flawed, and the pacing is dead on, until the end where I felt that the resolution was a bit rushed. Everything happened so fast, I lost a bit of the emotional connection, which is why I didn't give this book 5 stars.

Regardless, Amanda Stevens has penned a spine-tingling story about love, loss, lies, guilt and family secrets. This is a great read for that cold winter night. I highly recommend it! And I'll never look at a doll the same way again.

--Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
Author of Divine Intervention
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