"Overton’s depiction of a psychotic, arrogant and violent rapist has the ring of truth. Baby Doll is a book you won’t be able to put down."
The above is how this page-turner of a novel begins. What follows is Lily’s agonising discovery of how much her family has suffered as a result of her disappearance – and, crucially, the shocking news that her violent kidnapper is an old family friend.
At the core of this psychological thriller are Lily’s relationship with her mother, twin sister Abby, the high-school boyfriend she loved but was taken from, and, most terrifying of all, the fact that she had known her abductor for years. He was her schoolteacher – handsome, respected and admired. He is the abhorrent man little Sky calls Daddy Rick.
Lily’s family disintegrated after her disappearance. Her father died of a heart attack only weeks later and her mother has become a lonely, promiscuous depressive. Meanwhile Lily’s identical twin sister, Abby, has attempted suicide and developed into a bitter, hard-faced young woman who is estranged from their mother.
This is Overton’s debut novel but she is also an experienced TV writer in the US. She demonstrates an acute sense of drama in this book – she’s excellent at writing vividly dramatic scenes, none more so than when Lily leads the police to her kidnapper’s classroom when he is in mid-lesson.
So terrified and paranoid has she become that Lily feels the police simply won’t believe her. He is a universally-respected teacher and a pillar of the community. The scene is which she personally confronts him at her old school is shocking ad gripping.
Overton is an identical twin herself and has an intriguing background. Her father was a member of a notorious criminal gang in Texas and spent years in jail for manslaughter. Overton’s depiction of a psychotic, arrogant and violent rapist has the ring of truth. Baby Doll is a book you won’t be able to put down.
"Baby Doll is a story of abduction, rape (resulting in the birth of a child), incarceration in a cellar for years, and an escape which re-unites the prisoner with her family after eight years in isolation."
The publishers have compared this debut psychological thriller to blockbusters Gone Girl and Girl on The Train. But the real comparison is to Emma Donahue’s hugely successful novel, Room. Overton’s scenario is similar. Baby Doll is a story of abduction, rape (resulting in the birth of a child), incarceration in a cellar for years, and an escape which re-unites the prisoner with her family after eight years in isolation.
But it’s very different from Room, told not from a child’s point of view but from those of a whole family devastated by a crime that has almost destroyed them.
Lily, 16 years old, is abducted one afternoon as she waits for a lift home from her high school gates. She doesn’t see the outside word again for eight years, during which she is repeatedly raped and viciously beaten by her abductor; as a result she gives birth to a little girl, Sky, who is six when the story begins.
Then one day her captor makes a fatal mistake. He doesn’t shoot the deadbolt at the top of the cellar stairs when he leaves the remote winter cabin in which he has incarcerated his young victims. At first, unwilling to believe that her psychotic but ruthlessly efficient abductor could possibly have simply forgotten to bolt the door, Lily, terrified, gathers her beloved daughter into her arms and runs through a bitterly cold night – her child’s first sight of snow.
Lily is astonished to find she’s been kept only a few miles from her family home. Somehow, despite the cold, the pyjama-clad pair manage to get there. Lily’s shocked mother answers the door; Eve had thought her daughter was dead.
Here are a selection of the reviews for Baby Doll
"What a compulsive read! A brilliant first novel that kept me transfixed and entertained until the very last page. "
"With a narrative that can only be described as ‘nuclear’, the story of newly freed Lily and her daughter Sky moves at breakneck speed … It’s a really good read."
"Compelling first novel … Overton throws in enough twists, turns, and surprises to keep the reader wondering what on earth can happen next."