Darby is a young woman on her own in New York City. She has been sent there by her mother at the behest of her stepfather to attend secretarial school. It’s the 1950s, and as such it is not uncommon for single women to live in hotels or boardinghouses. Darby is living in the Barbizon Hotel for Women, which has almost a sorority-esque feel to it. Darby is a small town girl and soon feels out of place and homesick, until she meets one of the hotel maids, Esme. Esme introduces Darby to a whole new world by taking her out after hours to experience the nightlife by way of a jazz club. As their friendship blossoms, Darby begins to see her life from a whole new perspective.
Meanwhile, their is a modern day element to The Dollhouse with an alternating storyline. Rose is living in the Barbizon, which has now been turned into condos. Some of the former residents from the 1950s have stayed on, including Darby, but she has completely isolated herself. Rose, a journalist, is trying to research a story on the history of the Barbizon, and more specifically a mysterious death that happened there in the 50s. Rose attempts to ingratiate herself with the icy Darby but has little luck.
As the story unfolds, more and more details emerge about the murder that occurred and the climate of the hotel in the 50s. I admit I actually abandoned this book at 7% and I rarely ever pick up abandoned books again, but I did on a whim (because I feel an immense guilt bailing on a review book), and I am so glad I did. The pacing was excellent and the mystery unfolded at a good speed, which held my attention through most of the book. I though Davis’s writing left a little to be desired–it is hard to explain why I felt like that, but it definitely felt like a debut novel. I especially had a hard time believing Rose’s character.
I loved the setting of The Dollhouse and thought that the Barbizon sounded so cool. If you’re looking for a quick mystery in a historical setting, this is a good one to try.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.