Labyrinth Of The Dolls: Craig Wallwork
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
After reading Bad People by Craig Wallwork, I was highly anticipating book two in the Tom Nolan detective series, Labyrinth of the Dolls. The first novel set a high bar with a mix of gruesome crimes and fantastic characters, but the second surpassed all my expectations with an even more thrilling case to be solved.
Set nearly a year after the events of book one, Tom Nolan has joined the Murder Investigation Team of the West Yorkshire Police, hoping to leave behind the horrific events of Stormer Hill. But as Nolan and his new partner DC Jennifer Morrison begin investigating a new string of grisly murders, Nolan begins to suspect his past isn’t done with him.
When the first victim is found with her skin painted porcelain white and dressed as a doll, it’s clear this killer is just getting started. What’s more, the autopsy reveals clues that appear to have been left specifically for Nolan although following the evidence may lead to his own demise.
As with the first book, Wallwork doesn’t hold back in providing spine-chilling details of the crime scenes. From pools of blood to removal of eyeballs, and even the bizarre placement of a music box, my inner gore-hound loved every macabre description. Outside of the horrific passages, Wallwork also captures mundane details in unique and vivid ways, such as, “Bill settled into an armchair, its tanned leather arms cracked like scabs on a child’s knee.”
I was equally enthralled by the fast pace of this novel which made it nearly impossible to put down. Even the quieter scenes where the action was contained to Nolan’s internal dialogue were so rich in tension that they were just as compelling as the high-stakes chases.
Another aspect I enjoyed were the characters. Unlike other crime stories where the lead detective often feels like a super-human genius, Nolan is down to earth, unsure of himself, and follows the clues instead of making gigantic leaps in extrapolating data. He feels like a whole person as we see both his strengths and flaws. And the entire cast of characters are represented just as fully.
Thrilling from start to finish Labyrinth of the Dolls is crime fiction perfection, and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead as the series continues.
The Kendall Reviews Post Review Interview
J.A. Sullivan & Craig Wallwork
JAS: Labyrinth of the Dolls is such a tightly packed story. Did you find it easier to write than Bad People (Tom Nolan #1) since you were now familiar with the characters? Or did the familiarity create a bigger challenge?
Craig Wallwork: I remember it being a quick write. I took full advantage of lockdown and committed to finishing it within three months, which I did. I also wanted to dig down into Nolan’s character more. In Bad People, I felt I didn’t explore his insecurities as much as I would have liked. I touched upon them when he visited one of the mothers whose child had gone missing, that yearning for love but being too insecure to express or articulate his feelings. But I wanted the reader to truly understand him in Labyrinth, to hopefully empathise and warm to how imperfect and fragile he is. While his skill set is extraordinary, he is an ordinary man struggling to attain love, and I felt it important the readers become more emotionally invested him, if only because his fears and insecurities are universal. The feedback I’ve had has been very complimentary. Readers have really taken to Nolan, which has been truly humbling to witness.
JAS: Did you discover new and unexpected traits in Nolan while writing the second book?
CW: He was very closed off in Bad People. A true loner. With the introduction of Jennifer Morrison, his partner in solving the Doll Maker murders, he allowed himself to open up. He had no choice really. She was a great character to write because she was so brash and uncouth, which really worked well with Nolan’s self-effacing and quiet demeanour. She pulled things out of him that I didn’t expect he would talk about. Morrison also has all the best lines. She was actually based on a couple of female detectives I know. Some of the things she said were direct quotes. Like Nolan, you can’t help but be taken aback by her. But that dichotomy of character traits really works well on paper; it brought Nolan more out of his shell, and conversely, his calm and measured character reigned in Morrison.
JAS: I know you’ve been working on the third book in the Nolan series, what can you tell us about the latest story?
CW: I’ve always been interested in the genesis of a serial killer; what exactly pushes them to kill. So I’ve made an effort this time to peel away the history of the killer in this book. Their MO is pretty disturbing too. All I can say is, the murders are designed in such a way that each one is a small piece of a large puzzle, one that, when revealed, ties in all three books. Like Bad People and Labyrinth of the Dolls, I’ll blur the line between horror and thriller, so expect blood. Plenty of it. It’ll also pick up a few months after the Doll Maker murders. The psychological and physical strain undertaken by Nolan in Labyrinth couldn’t be brushed under the carpet. I didn’t want to start this new book and he’s back behind the desk ready to tackle a new case full of vim and vigour. The trauma he experienced led to mental and physical damage. To dilute this would be very disrespectful to police officers, or any person who has experienced mental health or physical trauma in their workplace. So Nolan’s history will be resonating throughout the book.
JAS: Any plans to expand the series further?
CW: I think I always saw it as a trilogy. At least that’s how I planned it. But I’ve come to warm to Nolan over the course of the writing. I see him more as an anti-Jack Reacher or James Bond. His humanity and ordinariness is a tonic to me and allows greater depth to his character. So who knows. I’ve had a few ideas for other killers/crimes, but I’m acutely aware of draining a character until they become two dimensional. I don’t want that for Nolan, so I’ll only embark on more books if I feel he’s up for it too.
JAS: Now that you’ve established your prowess within the crime-horror subgenre, do you think you’ll continue to explore those types of stories, or are there any other subgenres/hybrid-genres you would like to tackle next?
CW: Many readers don’t know but I’ve written in other genres before; magical realism, comedy-horror, bizzaro, dramedy or tragicomedy, noir, gothic, horror-science fiction. The truth is, I never set out to write in a particular genre. The story dictates the genre, never the other way around. There is darkness to all my work. That’s the only continuity I can find. For the foreseeable though, I can’t see me writing anything light. I certainly don’t see myself writing a romance novel or historical fiction. That said, I did have an idea the other day about a dating agency who has mastered time travel so employs attractive people to cock-block relationships from the past. It’s based on that age-old question about, if you could go back in time and kill one person who would it be? The agency would face legal action if they instructed a person to murder, let’s say Hitler, but ethically it’s a lot easier to stop Mr and Mrs Hitler never meeting. So employees are sent back in time to stop couples conceiving. I think that’s about as light as I get.
Labyrinth Of The Dolls
EVIL HAS A NEW FACE
It’s been one year since the horrific murders of Stormer Hill, and the events of that time continue to resonate with Detective Constable Tom Nolan. In an attempt to find the second killer, known only as the Ragman, Nolan joins West Yorkshire’s Murder Investigation Team.
Partnered with Jennifer Morrison, a straight-talking detective with her eye on promotion, the two officers are assigned to track down a new killer whose victims are all found dressed like human dolls. As the investigation progresses, Nolan becomes an intricate piece in the killer’s grand vision that puts his life in danger.
But with the body count rising daily and the pressure to find who the media is labelling the Doll Maker increasing, Nolan discovers more than just a series of grisly murders…
I’d sincerely like to thank Craig Wallwork for taking the time to speak with me. I hope you enjoyed this interview, and if you would like to know more about the author and his works, feel free to connect with him on the following social medial platforms:
Craig Wallwork is the author of the novels, Bad People, Labyrinth of the Dolls, Heart of Glass, and The Sound of Loneliness, as well as the short story collections, Quintessence of Dust, and Gory Hole. His stories have been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize, many of which feature in various anthologies and magazines both in the U.K. and U.S. He currently lives in England.
THREE MISSING CHILDREN. Over the past three years, the quiet Yorkshire village of Stormer Hill has lost three of its children. No bodies were ever discovered. No evidence found. No witnesses.
THE WRITER. Struggling to find inspiration for his new novel, celebrated crime author, and ex-police officer, Alex Palmer, believes the story of the missing children could end his writer’s block, but is he prepared for the story that’s about to develop?
THE DETECTIVE. Tom Nolan, a seasoned detective and loner involved in finding each missing child. Nolan is tasked with chaperoning Palmer and walking through each case. But as both men revisit the past, and dig deeper, neither are prepared for the chilling discovery to why the children were taken.
THE BRETHREN. A secret cult. Two men, and a series of brutal and unimaginable murders spanning over seven years with one intention; to show the world that death can be justified if it’s for a greater good.
If you want to read the full review of Bad People, here’s the link Kendall Review: Bad People
Or why not pick-up a copy to see for yourself? It will be offered for free on Amazon on January 17th to mark the one-year anniversary of the initial release.
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan