I recently ranted about how the domestic thriller genre may as well be replaced by the words “for fans of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train“. It’s now moving beyond a pet peeve, to the point that I think it’s doing new releases an active disservice. I can only assume that whichever blurb writer decided Baby Doll is a sibling of the aforementioned books, and “the most tense thriller you will read this year”, hadn’t actually read it. If anything, it’s a kissing-cousin to Sweet Valley High, if only one installment had featured Jessica or Elizabeth being kept prisoner in a basement for eight years. Given that I distinctly remember Jessica falling into an abusive marriage, it’s not even that out there.
In Baby Doll, we follow Lily Riser as she escapes from captivity to be reunited with her family, and deal with the aftermath of her years as a prisoner. The trouble is, there’s nothing remotely thrilling about it. Lily escapes in the very first chapter, and from there on out, it’s really more of a Lifetime drama as she attempts to fit back in to the world of her mother and twin sister. One of the main plot strands involves the twins both having designs on the same man. Given the subject matter of this book, throwing in a love triangle was ill-conceived at best.
The characters are paper thin, and the whole story is lacking in depth. Around two thirds of the way in, Overton seems to hit the fast-forward button and we begin to skim weeks and months ahead. It was around this point that I began to skim too, wanting the whole thing to be over. Certainly, there were a couple of surprising moments that I didn’t see coming, but one or two surprises does not a thriller make. Had the book been marketed as a family drama instead, I think it would have stood less chance of disappointing readers expecting a different type of story.
It’s entirely possible that Baby Doll may just not be my cup of tea. It wasn’t a long read, so I can’t resent the time spent on it, but I certainly think it deserves better and less misleading marketing.
[Read from 15-20 September 2016]