The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ The Doll

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ The Doll

A Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

The Doll – Rex Sparger

Well, it’s finally happened. Your Hardcover Honey has become one of those annoying geeks working on a laptop in public, iced coffee at hand. With my husband cramming two years of continuing ed into two days using our trusty desktop and my son addicted to the shrill joys of “Regular Show” on Cartoon Network, even this smooth jazz and calls of “Strawberry Smoothie for Carla!” here at Panera are more conducive to work this morning.

Although…….people are looking at me a little strangely. Could it be my battered paperback of this week’s read “The Doll” that is causing some concern? Understandable!  That cover image certainly is a keeper and has stayed with me long after the details of the book have fled my memory. The second in my re-read of Dark Forces books was another successful experiment as it was a one-day read, yet neatly encapsulated all kinds of stuff I find scary (dolls, country fairs, out of control horses……..religion)!

In “The Doll”, teenaged Cassie Craig is, for some reason, a collector of dolls, and is very excited to head to the annual county fair, where she expects to win a blue ribbon for her doll collection this year.  Yeah, I know, just go with it. As a side benefit, she will get to see her long-distance farm-boy boyfriend Jack, who will be at the fair with his younger brother, Nate, who will be showing off his cutting horse, Pebbles (side note, I don’t know what a cutting horse is, but apparently Pebbles is the best one ever).

Reunited at the fair, Cassie and Jack quickly come across a fortune-teller, who warns them of dark times ahead. And then, barely 30 pages into the book, The Doll makes her first appearance, as Cassie and Jack come across a midway dart game where she is one of the prizes. Cassie is immediately seized with an intense desire to possess the doll, who is dressed in a long white dress and has hair that Cassie deems “almost real” (so, kind of like one the Real Housewives of so-and-so?).  The carnie (carny?) is just setting up and asks that they come back tomorrow, and Cassie spends a restless night tossing and turning and thinking about how much she wants the doll.

The next day, back they go to win the doll and when a man in line ahead of Cassie appears ready to land his tenth dart and win the doll for his girlfriend, Cassie finds herself seized with a sudden urge to stop him…..which she accomplishes by throwing her own dart INTO HIS LEG. Holy moly does this chick want a doll, huh? After playing it off as an accident, Cassie is thrilled when Jack successfully lands ten darts of his own and wins the doll for her. And almost immediately, things start changing.  Jack notices within hours that the doll’s hair looks darker than when they first saw her, no longer strawberry blond, but more of a dark red, closer, in fact, to Cassie’s own hair.  And weren’t her eyes a lighter blue before? Not the dark blue of Cassie’s eyes that they now appear to be?  <chills>  Cassie even tells Jack “Feel her skin, it feels real too!” <gag>

When Cassie and Jack (and The Doll) go to see Nate compete in the horse event with Pebbles, things take an even darker turn as Pebbles (in the classic “animals sensing evil” tradition) quickly rears up and away from The Doll and breaks his leg coming down. You can probably guess what happens next for Pebbles, right?

And when disaster strikes Cassie’s doll collection shortly thereafter, her new doll seems to be the only thing that can comfort her. While holding it, Cassie notices that The Doll seems to be heavier than earlier, and its hair even seems longer. When she and Jack meet up later in the day, Jack notices that Cassie is carrying The Doll on her hip as one would a small child <eep>  Things get even more bizarre from there, leading up to the final scenes of the book, an epic battle of good vs evil in a graveyard, headed by a friendly minister and the county fair fortune-teller against a talking possessed doll.  Yes, yes, of course that makes sense. There’s Bible-holding and hymn singing and so on. 

OK, so here’s the thing – once AGAIN just as in last week’s read “Beat the Devil”, I only remembered the scary aspects of the book and not any of the religious soul-saving. Now I am prepping for my next Dark Forces re-read (The Game) and wondering if that one will end with a religious experience as well.  Has the Dark Forces series been church recruitment material THIS ENTIRE TIME and I never knew it?

Hardcover Honey verdict: Much like last week, I cannot be objective about "The Doll."  It scared me as a kid and the scary stuff still works, but the ending is more than a little lame.  So 3 tiny talking dolls out of 5 for this one?