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The Killing Doll

3.62  ·  Rating Details ·  830 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
In a shabby London suburb, sixteen-year-old Pup Yearman dabbles in magic. But for Pup's older sister Dolly, the magic is more than dabbling. Deformed by a facial birthmark, Dolly desperately wants to be cured, and her obsession with Pup's magic sends her on a dangerous downward spiral into confusion, madness, and possibly murder. And meanwhile, in a squalid boardinghouse n ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 12th 1985 by Fawcett (first published 1984)
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Dec 25, 2009 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting to find so much dislike for this novel here, and for the very reasons so many Ruth Rendell fans LOVE her books!!! I first read it in the late 1980s, during my early days as a Rendell reader, and have returned to it several times - my current 'read' is probably the fourth time around. Along with THE BRIDESMAID and MAKE DEATH LOVE ME, I find it to be one of her strongest and most compelling novels of psychological suspense, and like them, yes, it's one of her darkest. It's also one of ...more
Lisa H.
Aug 25, 2012 Lisa H. rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: anyone who doesn't already think the real world is appalling enough as it is
Shelves: general-fiction
About 150 pages in, I thought, Where in the hell is this going? About 3/4 of the way through, things started to coalesce. By the time I was done, I was just... bored. I realize that all around me people are living tiny, dull, sometimes repulsive lives, but I don't understand Ms. Rendell's decision to populate this book with some of the most unpleasant people I've ever "met" in the pages of a book.

Peter ("Pup") and Doreen ("Dolly") live with their parents in what was their grandparents' home, a
Adam Nevill
Nov 20, 2014 Adam Nevill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Only the second Ruth Rendell I have read and it was compelling. In fact, I was reminded of early Ian McKewan. Really insightful writing about a large cast of misfits and outsiders in London, with a curious atmosphere of the erotic, supernormal and occult magic. The spiritualist meetings were delightfully weird and grotesquely memorable.
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 Ronald Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A chronology of the development of psychosis in two London outcasts, whose destinies intermingle without them ever meeting. Also an examination of the pursuit of power through the occult, and especially black magic. The Book-of-the-Month Club selected this book for me in 1984 and I read it the first time in the late 1980s. I was once again stunned by how it ends.

"I kill, therefore I am."

This is one of those books I feel I shouldn't give too much away about, suffice to say it is about a teenage boy who sells his soul to the devil and how that decision affects his sister's life. When I say devil I do not mean a literal character, this is not a fantasy, rather a suspenseful study of the occult and mental illness, touching on alcoholism and with a bit of murder thrown in for good measure. Sounds cheery doesn't it?

I honestly had no idea where this was
I have one word for why I loved this book so much: Diarmit! Okay so he was a whack job extraordinare and a killer but hey it's fiction so I had no qualms whatsoever in laughing at the man who remains the funniest antagonist I have ever read. The main characters were interesting as well but I always looked forward to returning to Diarmit and his red (Conal's) clothes versus the other (Diarmit's) clothes debacle. You'll just have to read it to find out what I mean and if you have a sense of humor ...more
Apr 16, 2012 Deirdre rated it did not like it
Whatever you do...don't read this book. There isn't one character that is likable. The story, such as it is, moves at a snail's pace. The ending was predictable. The writing is stuffy...prissy. It was obvious that the storyteller thought that the ending was shocking and powerful...but it was just predictable and flat. Heed my warning...don't read this book!
Apr 01, 2010 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Glancing at the publication date of this, 1984, I was prepared to describe it as an early Rendell; yet according to the "Also by" list on the half-title verso she'd already by this time published a dozen Wexford novels (which surprised me less), ten of her psychological thrillers and three books of short stories. (I've no idea if by 1984 she'd instituted her Barbara Vine alter ego.)

The main focus is on brother and sister Pup and Dolly; he as a boy sold his soul to the Devil and took up the prac
Jun 30, 2016 Sistermagpie rated it really liked it
Three for three with Ruth Rendell so far. This story concerns another family both too close and at odds at the same time. Dolly, a young very sheltered woman with a birthmark that's kept her in hiding most of her life, dotes on her teenage brother Pup. When he decides to become a magician (sorry, geomancer) Alister Crowley-style and sells his soul to the devil, she supports him all the way. Pup grows out of his adolescent interest and belief in magic. Dolly's not so lucky. She doesn't realize ma ...more
Oct 13, 2009 Wendy rated it liked it
I probably liked this book more than I should have just because it was an adult book after reading so many teen books. The writing is just so different when an author actually tries. Anyway, there didn't seem to be much of a plot and I didn't care one bit about the characters, but I still wanted to see what would happen since the characters were so bizarre. Maybe I'll try some of her other books since she was quite famous in her time. Perhaps this book was a fluke and her others will be better.
Jack Fricker
May 05, 2015 Jack Fricker rated it it was ok
Shelves: suspense
Basically a story about mental illness. Each character seems to have one to some degree or other.
This is a quick read and that's the reason I finished it. Otherwise it is fairly bleak and the characters all either unlikeable or pathetic.
The writing is good and there is no rambling or unnecessary descriptiveness.
Overall though I didn't find this book enjoyable - it was fairly predictable and just depressing.
Mar 24, 2011 Arwen rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-suspense
Rendell's characters are wierd, bizarre, socially inept and just plain crazy. During the course of a book at least one of them descends even further into madness with murderous consequences.
This one concentrates on three such characters whose lives become intertwined, unknown to themselves. It is well written with several twists to the plot which kept me guessing as to the final outcome. A typical Rendell story, creepy and effective.
Feb 19, 2015 Omaira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Un relato con poco interés, cuyo principal punto a favor es su corta duración y ciertos capítulos donde la trama es ágil. Apenas hay misterio, no hay tensión y el desarrollo de la trama ofrece pocas sorpresas"

Reseña completa: http://entrelalecturayelcine.blogspot...
Feb 05, 2017 Jeanine rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, fiction, own-it
Weird rather convoluted story of a woman going crazy.
Dec 09, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spooky story. Was it really a pact with the devil or something else entirely? Freaky good mystery that sticks with you after reading it.
Feb 27, 2011 Michaelbatte rated it really liked it
very surprising ending - strange book but kept me hooked the whole read
Apr 08, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
My first book by Ruth Rendell and I couldn't stop reading it. Such strange and psychologically interesting characters. Definitely will be reading more.
Feb 11, 2014 Sally rated it liked it
3.5 I think, really enjoyed the writing but I did guess the ending.
Mar 19, 2008 Kate rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all Ruth Rendell fans
This is probably my new favorite Rendell!
Johannes Herrmann
Feb 06, 2017 Johannes Herrmann rated it it was ok
It's a fairly short book and I admit that I didn't finish more than about half of it. By that time the utter depression of the character's lives had gotten me into a sufficiently bad mood that I'm turning to something brighter. I won't be bothering to finish this one, although someone who appreciates the interactions of ... unusual and broken people may the best way to put it ... might well enjoy this one.
Oct 23, 2016 Cindy rated it it was ok
Shelves: ruth-rendell
This author has a very scary way of letting you know what the characters are flawed as they are! So bizarre!
Ulrike Böhm
Way tooooo much!
Ich wäre mitgegangen, wenn RR nur die Entwicklung *eines* Psychopathen beschrieben hätte - das macht sie auch in diesem Buch stilsicher und glaubhaft. Aber müssen es gleich zwei (!) Psychos sein, (view spoiler) Das ist für meinen Geschmack übertrieben und an den Haaren herbeigezogen. Das on top einer Handlung, in der es zum großen Teil um schwarze Magie geht, das war zuviel des Guten.
Eigentlich hat dieser Roman nicht
Jul 14, 2014 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book because it was the appropriate amount of weird. The basic premise is that Peter (Pup) sells his soul to the devil and develops an interest in magic. As he grows in his knowledge of the occult, his sister Dolly's fascination with it grows. This is fueled by the fact that strange things begin to happen as a result of Pup's spells. Also, Dolly goes to seances and becomes convinced that she two people who have passed on follow her around. Dolly's interest grows deeper and ...more
Pan Alchemist
May 14, 2016 Pan Alchemist rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, 2016
This one killed me. I don't think I have ever taken so long to read a book under 300 pages.

It isn't that it was written badly. It wasn't that I wasn't curious to see what happened. But... something was missing. I suppose I didn't care about the characters in the slightest. I can't put my finger on why though. They were well-developed, I could understand them, but I just didn't find my give-a-shit bone stimulated.

The story, although easy enough to follow, just didn't really seem to be going anyw
Apr 26, 2015 Rose rated it liked it
It is rather hard to review this book, partly because I was so tired while reading it that I struggled to hold the book up, but also partly because some parts were amazing while others really… weren't.
Even with six deaths I was left feeling that nothing had really happened (??!) and although many aspects of the plot were good, a lot of them were sadly predictable.
Would I recommend this to other readers? Yes, if you’re not looking for a read that will have you trembling with exhilaration. This is
He tenido la desgracia de tener que leerlo en español, y desde luego, la mayor pega que le pongo a este libro es la traducción. ¡Qué horror!
Pero además de eso no me ha gustado nada el estilo de Ruth Rendell en este libro. Descripciones insulsas con mucho color pero poca chicha, que sobran donde no deberían hacerlo y faltan donde son más necesarias...
Otra cosa: ¿esta mujer no sabe que cuando se habla de cosas diferentes se debe hacer en párrafos distintos? Ojú, qué tedioso de leer todo seguido y
Theresa Leone Davidson
Ruth Rendell's novels usually share some commonalities: a setting that seems normal enough but has a faint eldritch quality to it, characters whose motives are ambiguous, and a slow but consistent suspense. The Killing Doll, however, while somewhat suspenseful in spots, is essentially the story of two characters with serious, undiagnosed mental illness, and they are the ones who create the conflict. I thought it was sad and not scary, and although I usually love Rendell's novels, I cannot recomm ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Kristine rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This isn't one of my favorite Rendell books. While it is her usual style of really sick people doing really sick things, I just had a difficult time following this one. I wasn't really sure why the Irishman was included in this novel. I think there needed to be a better connection between the two stories. Usually Ruth Rendell is very good about bringing together characters that really should never meet, but this time the connection was never really made.
Jun 20, 2010 Lisa rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
The Killing Doll is the second book that I have read by Ruth Rendell and both have followed the same thread, one or more of the characters slowly unraveling and descending into madness. Lethal madness. I can't say she is really my sort of thing, though the author has been tauted as the best mystery writer writing in English. I found the stories I have read to be overheated and just barely believable. I'll probably give the writer another try.
Sep 02, 2014 Shari rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: creepy-stuff
Tutto sommato un bel libro, i personaggi sono costruiti bene (anche se tutti ugualmente odiosi) e la trama è originale, con quel gioco di detto/non detto che non ti fa capire se l'elemento sovrannaturale ci sia davvero o se siano semplicemente tutti pazzi, ma la lettura è più pesante di quanto dovrebbe e il finale lo si intuisce già a metà della storia.
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A.K.A. Barbara Vine

Ruth Barbara Rendell, Baroness Rendell of Babergh, CBE, who also wrote under the pseudonym Barbara Vine, was an acclaimed English crime writer, known for her many psychological thrillers and murder mysteries and above all for Inspector Wexford.
More about Ruth Rendell...

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“I never knew anyone actually buy cakes when they were hot ...” 1 likes
“I kill, therefore I am.” 1 likes
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