cover image The Dollhouse

The Dollhouse

Fiona Davis, read by Tavia Gilbert. Penguin Audio, unabridged, 8 CDs, 10 hrs., $40 ISBN 978-1-5247-0314-1

Gilbert’s superb audio adaptation of Davis’s debut mystery, set in N.Y.C., at the renowned Barbizon Hotel, formerly a women-only residence to famous luminaries, is a highly skilled performance of this suspenseful love story, whose characters inhabit two timelines. Present-day journalist Rose hits a crisis when her boyfriend, whom she lives with at the Barbizon, now a condo building, gets back with his ex-wife and kicks Rose out. Rose learns that a rent-controlled floor of the Barbizon has elderly women residents from its mid-century heyday, and that one of the women, Darby, was involved in a maid’s death in 1952. With Darby out of town, Rose squats in Darby’s apartment and begins unraveling the mystery of the death of Esme, the maid. Gilbert is brilliant with Esme’s full-throated, lovely Puerto Rican accent. Gilbert has nearly flawless range and control with the many characters, hitting a real high mark with the contrast between Esme’s confident, pushy, and highly emotional big-city character and Darby, a self-conscious innocent from a small town. In Gilbert’s capable hands, the story’s message about courage and self-reliance is loud and clear. A Dutton hardcover. (Aug.)