The Dollmaker is book two in Mary Burton’s Forgotten Files series, and even though I have not read the previous book (The Shark), I had no problem following the story as this one works perfectly well as a standalone.
Dr. Tessa McGowan has just started a new job as a medical examiner when the body of a young woman who has been made up to look exactly like a doll is found. Whoever killed her is incredibly skilled, going so far as to tattoo her face in order to make her features appear more doll-like. Tessa is horrified, but a bit intrigued as well. Then, she learns that the lead detective on the case is her estranged husband Dakota Sharp.
Dakota’s life has been touched by tragedy. Twelve years ago, his younger sister was found dead. Everyone assumed she died of a drug overdose, but Dakota has never been convinced of that. Then a retired police officer reveals that Dakota isn’t the only one to have had doubts all these years and he is now determined to find out what happened to his sister. It seems the body sitting on Dr. McGowan’s examination table might just be the key.
Tessa and Dakota were married nearly two years before the story begins, but their marriage only lasted eight months before Tessa left. She didn’t necessarily want to end things with Dakota, but she sensed a lot of distance was growing between them, and he wasn’t willing to work on their relationship. He existed only to solve cases, perhaps to make up for his perceived failure to protect his sister. Now though, Tessa is hoping to make things right between them. A year spent working out of the country has matured her, and she’s never really fallen out of love with her husband.
For his part, Dakota isn’t sure he’s good for Tessa. He considers himself a workaholic, and he thinks Tessa deserves something more. Plus, he wonders if he might be too old for her. There is an age difference of twelve years, and Dakota can’t help but feel Tessa would be happier with someone closer to her own age. Even so, he can’t help but feel drawn to her.
As Tessa and Dakota work to solve the murder, they’re forced to re-examine their pasts as they fight for their future. To make things even more complex, the killer has set his sights on Tessa, sure she’ll be his most special doll of all.
The second chance romance between Dakota and Tessa is definitely believable, and I love the way the author deals with the age difference between them. Both are willing to compromise, and soon, Dakota realizes he and Tessa are more the same than they are different. Tessa is wonderfully supportive of Dakota’s angst. Her love for him shines through, even when they don’t see eye to eye.
I had no idea who the killer was, but when his identity was revealed, everything clicked into place. The mystery did not cause me to suspend disbelief in the slightest. There are a few rather gruesome scenes involving the killer as he is preparing his “dolls” for the world to see, but they’re nothing too awful if you’re a frequent reader of romantic suspense.
This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but I definitely plan to seek out her backlist. She balances the romance and the suspense perfectly, making her books just what I’m looking for when I’m in the mood for something both romantic and suspenseful.