When Penny Matthews, a seven-year-old girl with blonde curls and a gap-toothed smile, goes missing in the Appalachian Mountains, Detective Ellie Reeves is called straight to the scene. According to Penny’s parents, their daughter vanished after a picnic by the creek. All that’s left behind is a pink friendship bracelet etched with “Penny”.
Ellie knows all too well that the mountains’ endless miles of dark forest and winding rivers are the perfect place for a criminal to hide. Racing against the rapidly setting sun and a brutal winter storm on the horizon, she searches desperately for Penny.
Special Agent Derrick Fox is determined to join the hunt. His younger sister, Kim, disappeared in the same area twenty-five years ago––on the day he was meant to be watching her. He’s certain the cases are linked and that over a dozen girls have vanished in the last decade. Ellie refuses to believe that their tight-knit mountain community could be home to a deadly criminal, but even she can’t deny the similarities in the cases. And when they discover the remains of a small body buried with a carved wooden doll, it’s clear they’re up against a deadly serial killer preying on innocent little girls.
As the temperature plunges, Penny’s life hangs in the balance. Most people who get lost in the woods never make it out alive. Can Ellie and Derrick defy the odds and find out the truth about all the stolen girls? Or will the mountain, and its twisted killer, claim another victim?
I am always on the lookout for new crime thrillers. This one had so much promise that I couldn’t resist getting a copy. One thing that caught my attention is the mountain setting. It sounded like the perfect setting for a missing persons mystery.
Detective Ellie Reeves is the lead officer on this case. I am still not sure how I feel about her. I liked her background story and I love that she is outdoorsy. I admired her resolve to solve the case at all costs. However, a few things about her style of working didn’t really win me over. For instance, it felt like she was working alone. Maybe it’s a small town and the police department is small but we had two police stations working the case and it still felt like the Ellie show. When talking to the media, she even uses ‘I’ to indicate that she will look into the evidence, tie loose ends etc. This was a bit off to me. An FBI agent showed up but he was more of her sidekick. Another little niggle in her portrayal is her ‘romantic’ link to various characters. Our Detective also passed/blacked quite a lot. I lost count after the fifth time. This could be because she was working alone a lot and putting herself at risk but man, she sure did get knocked out quite a few times.
The Appalachian Mountains are treacherous. I loved the sound of the setting and the mysteries around it. The expansiveness really did provide the perfect hideout for the baddie and I was curious to see how the police would solve the case. I liked the idea of the shadow people living in the mountains. With the looming snow storm, the dangers posed by the setting heightened the tension in the story. I still struggled a bit with some aspects of the description of the setting though. We had a snowstorm and a terrain that was described as being so tough but this wasn’t always reflected in the actions of the characters. It was easy to forget where the mystery was set at times.
The Silent Dolls is the first book in what promises to be a good crime thriller series. The fast-pace and mystery had my attention to the last page. I look forward to the next installment especially given how this book ended. Hopefully, Ellie’s character development will resolve some of the issues that I initially had with her portrayal.