3 out of 4 stars
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The Doll Maker and the Hammer by R.B. Tetro is a crime thriller with horror elements mixed in. When mutilated bodies start piling up in town, Detectives Sanchez and O’Malley are tasked with investigating the gruesome crimes. For Detective Sanchez, something feels off about this killer, more so than usual, and she is filled with anxiety as she struggles to make time for her family and juggle the investigation. Life gets even more confusing when a shadowy figure saves Sanchez’s life on more than one occasion. The mysterious man, Jack, turns out to be a hitman, but why is he following her? And what is Sanchez’s connection to the crime spree that is overtaking her rainy Tennessee town?
In general, Tetro does a great job developing the protagonists. Sanchez and her partner, Jim Bo, were particularly enjoyable. The two detectives covet their positions in law enforcement but aren’t afraid to toe the line between right and wrong to serve the greater good, and their relationship is endearing. Like most partners, they share an intimate bond unique to their situation. However, it is Sanchez, in particular, who proved to be a really captivating character. The author makes sure to develop Sanchez as a hard-hitting, dedicated police officer, but Tetro also manages to capture her softer side as a conflicted wife and loving mother. On the other hand, the development of the antagonists was lacking. The Hammer is an un-killable killer with barely existent motives, and the Doll Maker’s psyche is equally unexplained. The lack of development of the title characters was disappointing given the extravagance of their kills.
Despite the mostly interesting characters, the focus of the book proved confusing. There are chapters dedicated to the first-person perspective of Jack, the mysterious hitman, where the reader is made privy to his inner thoughts; he is the only character given point-of-view chapters. However, Jack seems relatively unimportant towards the end, and throughout the story, the development of his motives and relationship with Sanchez continued to be unclear despite his first-person narration. By the end of the book, it’s apparent that the main character is Sanchez, and the plot hinges on her past life and her decisions in the present, leaving the reader wondering why so much narrative was dedicated to Jack.
Additionally, the narrative is in need of thorough editing. The text is riddled with significant punctuation errors, and there are quite a few sloppy mistakes, like when the character Jim Bo is referred to as “Jumbo.” Further, the most distracting issue throughout is the failure to properly organize dialogue: characters speak within the same paragraph, often making it difficult to decipher who is doing the talking; this required many passages to be reread. Further, there were quite a few instances where the writing is plain clumsy, like in the following sentence: “Agreed, Jim Bo agreed.”
There were a lot of good elements to this story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the development of the two characters Sanchez and Jim Bo. Moreover, the story was engaging and fast paced with interesting twists that kept me hooked until the end. However, the issues with the narrative focus and editing led me to a less-than-perfect rating. I struggled between 2 stars and 3 stars, and ultimately chose to go with 3 out of 4 stars, simply because I really enjoyed the main characters. I recommend The Doll Maker and the Hammer to readers who like crime thrillers and don’t mind horror elements in their stories. However, readers should be warned that much of the content involving the murders in this book is incredibly gruesome.
The Doll Maker and the Hammer
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