Title: Baby Doll
Author: Hollie Overton
Published: February 27th 2017
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Thriller, Crime
Rating: 5 stars
Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.
This is what happens next…
…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.
The sheer thought of being abducted and kept in a basement by a depraved predator for over eight years is beyond imaginable. It brought plenty of chills down my spine. The aftermath of such a horrific event is the focus of Hollie Overton’s debut thriller, Baby Doll.
Lily Riser is a teenager who has her life ripped apart from her one fateful afternoon. After a fight with her twin sister Abby that leaves her without a ride home from high school, Lily accepts help from a trusted figure. This dangerous and life changing journey, results in Lily’s kidnapping and enclosure the basement of cabin by a deranged abductor for over eight years. In that time, Lily is subjected to countless instances of sadistic abuse and even gives birth to the abductor’s child. Lily’s chance at freedom finally arrives one cold winter’s night, when her abductor makes a critical mistake. He accidentally leaves the door to Lily’s small basement home for the last eight years unlatched, while visiting his wife. Lily makes a desperate bid for freedom with her six year old daughter Skye, she takes a huge risk but it is worth it. When she reaches the outside area of the cabin, she sees she is heartbreakingly close to her childhood home. When she arrives home, Lily realises the true impact of her abduction and the eight years spent locked away has had on her family. Her mother is a nervous wreck, her father passed away soon after Lily was abducted from a heart attack and her twin sister Abby has battled with substance abuse. Lily may have escaped her hellhole, but life on the outside is just as hard as Lily, Skye and her family struggle to adjust to her reappearance. Then there is Lily’s captor, who the police finally apprehend and charge. However, a long and convoluted court case is just the beginning for Lily and her family.
Baby Doll was a book that held me captive for the couple of days it took me to race through this compulsive novel. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that I was so drawn to this story, as I selected Baby Doll on the basis that it was part of the 2017 selection for the Richard and Judy book club. A book club that rarely gets a recommendation wrong. Baby Doll was one of those books that I had a great difficulty in putting down and plenty of willpower was needed to stop myself from continually thinking about this book. It is up there with a handful of five star reads I have collated this year, making it one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in 2017.
It was interesting to find out that the very talented debut author of this book, Hollie Overton, is a twin and has had a rather difficult background. This seeps through into her writing, she clearly gets the twin dynamic and as a result, it came across on the page as extremely authentic. The twin relationship always fascinates me and the scenario this set of twins, Lily and Abby are presented with, is emotionally moving. The twin relationship stands strong in this book but so does the darkness of the crime, which is perhaps informed by Hollie Overton’s own past.
The narrative in Baby Doll follows a compelling formula. It kicks off with Lily’s escape from her confinement, rather than her capture. It flits between the past and present, eventually filling in the gaps and letting the reader know the specific details of Lily’s initial entrapment and eight years of torture. Baby Doll is a novel that alternates perspective, between Lily’s point of view, moving onto Lily’s mother Eve, through to twin sister Abby and finally the perpetrator of the crime, Rick. Overton seems to cover all bases with this shifting style of perspectives novel. We are also privy to the feelings and reactions to this crime and the aftermath, through Lily’s high school sweetheart Wes (now the father of Abby’s baby) and Lily’s young daughter Skye. There are other significant faces that all have a role to play in this twisted tale, from the oblivious Missy, Rick’s wife, to a female prison guard who takes a dangerous fancy to Rick.
Character wise, Overton has a solid grip on this area. Rick, the abductor, came across as the most well defined character in this sordid tale. This psychotic, calculated and twisted protagonist was responsible for many of the shocks this book had to deliver. Lily, his victim, was also a well formed character. Eve, Lily’s mother, frustrated me at many points but it is hard to criticise a mother who has suffered such a big loss. I am not sure how I would react if I was placed in the same situation. Abby, Lily’s twin sister, was a complex character full of emotional bite.
Baby Doll was a novel that never really seemed to let up pace wise, as soon as I read the very first page of this novel, I was committed to this emotional journey. There were plenty of twists and unexpected deviations to the narrative that gave this novel impact. There is no question that Baby Doll is an emotional book and at times hard to read, but in general Lily’s attack is somewhat watered down. Overall, I thought Baby Doll offered the reader a deeply introspective story of the various stages of an awful abduction. Overton moves through these stages with skill, from the moments (and character choices) that lead to the abduction, the incarceration, the dramatic escape, the reunion with family, the rehabilitation, court case and settlement following the case.
Baby Doll is a story that chronicles the devastation that the crime of abduction not only has on the victim and their immediate family, but on a whole community. Baby Doll is a standout debut and I can’t wait to hear more from this exciting new voice in the psychological thriller genre.
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton was published in February 2017, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.