"An eerie glow was beginning to fill the dollhouse"….or The Dollhouse Murders

Thanks to Goodreads for the image!
I’m actually kind of pissed that the cover to this book has been updated.  Thank God for Goodreads having all the cover images on hand so you guys can bask in the early-80’s awesomeness that is the cover of The Dollhouse Murders.  I mean, just look at Amy’s kick ass hair and clothes.  Still the creepiness of the cover is almost certainly what drew me to the book as a young teenager.  (Also, I’d like to point out the mistake.  The grandfather doll doesn’t move to the attic.  He moves to the master bedroom.  C’mon Scholastic.  Get that shit right!) I’m sorry, but this newer updated cover just doesn’t do it for me, especially considering the same glaring mistakes of doll placement:
Amy Treloar is twelve (nearly thirteen) years old and she has one big problem – her eleven year old sister, Louann.  Louann is mentally retarded (is that even a PC word anymore?) and she is completely Amy’s responsibility while their parents are at work.  Amy has to take Louann with her everywhere she goes, and she’s actually lost friends because they didn’t want to have to hang out with Louann all the time.  Amy has made a new friend, Ellen.  Ellen seems nice and is sympathetic to Amy when Louann gets in trouble for picking flowers at a florist shop in the mall.  But, then Ellen cancels some plans they’d had and Amy is convinced that it’s because of Louann.  
When the girls get home, Amy takes out her frustration at always having to watch Louann on their mother, who is shocked that Amy could possibly feel that way.  She says that Louann is Amy’s responsibility and should always love being around her sister who looks up to her so much.  Amy ought to feel ashamed of herself…blah blah blah.  Amy hops on her bike and rides out to the old house where her dad was raised by his Grandparents and where Amy’s Aunt Clare (her dad’s 13 years older sister) is staying since she lost her job. 
Aunt Clare is sympathetic to Amy’s plight and offers to let Amy stay in the creepy old house with her for a while.  Amy’s parents surprisingly agree to it, after a neighbor who watches her own special needs grandchild says she’ll take care of Louann.  
Amy and Aunt Clare get along very well.  They are cleaning out the attic and Amy comes across a gorgeous dollhouse.  It’s a perfect miniature of the house she’s staying in.  Amy is enthralled by the dollhouse, but Aunt Clare seems less than happy to have found it.  According to Aunt Clare, it was a gift for her fifteenth birthday from her Grandparents.  Clare had been having trouble getting along with them since she and Paul (Amy’s dad) had come to live with them after the deaths of their parents a couple years earlier.  At the time, Clare was ungrateful about the gift, and seeing it brought back memories of what a brat she acted like.  Amy obviously wants to play with the dollhouse, but doesn’t want to offend Clare.  
Amy has Ellen over and Ellen also loves the dollhouse.  They set the dolls up around the dining room table before dinner.  After dinner, Amy runs up to the attic to close the dollhouse and notices that the Grandmother doll has been moved to the parlor.Creepy.  
Amy asks Clare how her grandparents died, and Clare refuses to talk about it.  So Amy and Ellen hit the library to look up old obituaries in the local paper.  What they find is shocking.  Grandma and Grandpa Treloar were murdered in the house one evening while 18-year old Clare was out with a girlfriend.  Amy’s then five year old dad was found asleep in the closet of the parlor.  No suspects, no clues.  The murder was never solved.
Clare finds out that Amy researched this at the library and is fuming.  Amy tries to explain that she was just curious.  Then up in the attic, Clare discovers that the dolls have been moved to the spots of their murders.  Grandma in the parlor, Grandpa in the master bedroom, the little boy in the parlor closet and the teenage girl doll stowed away in the storage box.  Clare is furious that Amy would do such a thing as make a game of her Great-Grandparents’ deaths.  Amy insists that she didn’t move the dolls, but naturally Clare doesn’t believe her.  Amy suspects a ghost. 
Things are tense for a while, then Amy and Clare make up.  Clare is allowing Amy and Ellen to host a slumber party because the girls have birthdays coming up.  While Amy and Clare plan for the party, Amy continues to notice strange lights and sounds coming from the dollhouse and the dolls continuing to be moved to the spots of their murder.  
Party day arrives and there’s a family emergency, requiring Amy’s mom to drop Louann off at Clare’s house. Which means Amy’s big party, which was supposed to be a break from Louann, has been ruined.  But all is well, as Amy’s friends are sweet to Louann and include her in the party festivities.  The girls at the party adore the dollhouse.  That night, Amy awakens to find Louann missing.  Amy finds Louann in the attic watching the dolls move in the dollhouse and the Grandmother doll crying in the parlor.  
Once again, the next day Aunt Clare finds that the dolls have been moved to the spots of their murder.  Amy defends herself and this time, Clare believes her.  Clare breaks down and tells Amy she’s sure that her grandparents were murdered by her finace, a twenty six year old hard drinker who the grandparents didn’t approve of. And who died in an auto accident shortly after Clare’s grandparents were murdered.   Amy describes what has been going on with the dolls.  Clare decides to check out the books in the parlor that the Grandmother doll keeps pointing to.  They take all the books off the shelves and a note slips out of one.  In the Grandmother’s handwriting from the night of the murders, it says “He killed James.  He wants money.  He’s going to kill me too.  We’ve always been generous to Reuben – how could he do this?  Please God, don’t let Paul wake up.”
Who’s Reuben?  Why the gardener of course!  How convenient that Clare can stop feeling guilty about her no-good fiance!  Clare is happier, the dolls stop moving.  Amy accepts her mixed feelings about having Louann as a sister and moves back in with her parents.  Also, Clare calls Louann a “burden” to Amy, which kind of pisses Amy off.  
  • As a kid, I was thrilled with the ending.  Not so much as an adult.  To much convenience and happy times.  Clare is really quick to let go of her guilt, though now maybe she should feel guilty about besmirching the name of her dead fiance.  
  • Is it totally wrong that I wish Clare had been the murderer? Now that would have been a good ending!
  • The ghost-iness of the book is fine, not quite up to the level of Mary Downing Hahn, but about par for the course for a 1980’s kids’ ghost story.  The book is more effective as a family drama though.  Amy’s mixed feeling toward her sister and the battles she has with her mother come across as realistic.
  • I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to pick up on the fact that Louann has Down’s Syndrome, even though it’s never specifically stated in the book.  Although twice she is called brain-damaged.  Down’s people aren’t brain-damaged, it’s a chromosomal thing.  
  • Aunt Clare must weigh 300+ pounds.  Her answer to everything?  Snacks!  And she makes really decadent snacks.  Fudge, cookies, pizzas, etc.  What was it with 1980’s kid-lit and food?
  • The book that Grandma’s murder note was hidden in?  Ibsen’s A Doll’s House.  Amy’s unsure it’s a coincidence.  But…um yeah. Grandma is running from her murderer.  I’m sure she’s totally thinking, “OK, I’ll write this note and stick it specifically in this book because after I die, I’m totally gonna haunt the dollhouse in the attic!”
  • Oh yeah, Aunt Clare gives Louann the dollhouse. 

About nikkihb

Wife. Mother. Reader. Blogger.
This entry was posted in Betty Ren Wright, paranormal. Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to "An eerie glow was beginning to fill the dollhouse"….or The Dollhouse Murders

  1. Aly says:

    OMG. Bless you, bless you for reviewing this book. For some reason I LOVED this book – despite the fact that much to my mortification, my parents recently unearthed an audio cassette tape I recorded of myself in 5th grade as part of a book report when I did a "reading" of one of the chapters in this book. I even gave a "special voice" to Louann. Yeah. God help me.

  2. bananabomb says:

    OMG, I totally read this many moons ago and loved the shit out of it. What made me remember is the sister picking flowers at the florist's. And the little boy doll tucked away in the closet. Great choice, Nikki!

  3. Laura says:

    Dear Commenter Aly…I laughed outloud in my cubicle imagining your tape recording.Also, Thanks Nikki for reveiwing this. I think I read this, but not really that sure. I might try to see if I can find it somewhere.

  4. Sadako says:

    Wow, cool story. I never read this one, but I wish I had. I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot as a kid, though I think I'm with you, Nikki, about the ending as an adult. Kind of wish Clare had done it as well. (Hey–Clare's parents AND grandparents both died untimely deaths? Suspicious!)

  5. Ditty75 says:

    This is one of my favorite books still! Although, the ending is too convenient. And I've never quite bought the idea that a dollhouse can look exactly like a real house. Think about it. Unless a real house has a bunch of rooms stacked on top of each other in an unrealistic way, how can you possibly build a dollhouse replica of it? But I don't care. I loved this book almost as much as Wait Til Helen Comes when I was younger. πŸ™‚

  6. Jen says:

    Nikki, I LOVED THIS book, along with Behind the Attic Wall. Something about creepy dolls that really got me excited in elementary school. I found a used copy of the "newer" cover, and picked it up, thinking it looked terrible. I'm still on the hunt for an original cover, just because it's so much better.

  7. oldschoolpopculture says:

    I forgot this existed! I want to re-read it now.

  8. nikki says:

    I'm totally surprised by all these comments! I had no idea so many people would have read this one. Jen-send me an email nhboisture(at)gmail(dot)com and give me your address. I'll send you my original-cover copy.

  9. RMb says:

    oh man, this takes me back!!! thank you for this post! πŸ™‚

  10. Amber says:

    "I'm sure she's totally thinking, 'OK, I'll write this note and stick it specifically in this book because after I die, I'm totally gonna haunt the dollhouse in the attic!'"Hilarious. I think I'm going to read this book.

  11. LadyJ3000 says:

    Thank you for reviewing this book. I had a vague recollection of it but couldn't remember the book's title.

  12. Kathryn says:

    They made a movie of this! I think it was a made for TV movie…I saw it at a slumber party when I was nine and couldn't sleep without a light on for days! I even had to put my own dollhouse in another room…it scared me that bad.Then I went on to read the book, which was a bad choice, and was further traumatized.Still afraid to re-read it πŸ™‚

  13. Fropa Jones says:

    Wow, I'm sorry, but I am NOT a fan of Amy's parents, especially her mother! What parent thinks it's ok to put a 12 year old girl in charge of a younger sibling ALL THE TIME whether the sibling has mental challenges or not? I can't stand when parents make the oldest child basically raise the youngest one. Rant over.Other than that, this sounds like a really good book!

  14. zanne says:

    Thank you so much for recapping this book! I LOVED it when I was younger! I have been wanting to get it from the library to reread it, but keep forgetting. I agree with you, having Clare be the murderer would have been a better ending! Well, you know the Sleepover Friends ate tons of junk food! I also had to LOL at Aly's comment about her reading! ha. I am surprised I never thought of that when I was younger. I am mad I missed the tv movie they made. I wonder if it's available at all?

  15. Anonymous says:

    I just found your blog, and I love reading about all these old books i used to be obsessed with! for some reason this book REALLY creeped me out. i seriously couldn't deal with doll houses for a while πŸ™‚

  16. Anonymous says:

    It's nice to see someone review so many non-Sweet Valley/BSC books. I was such a nonconformist that I never read those because they were so popular-now I feel like I missed out! I also read this one. Btw-it's fine to say retarded as long as you use the word correctly and not as a derogatory term. The author wrote a few other books in a similar vein to this. One called Ghosts Beneath Our Feet where the house was so haunted that it wound up collapsing. I agree that she was even better at the family dynamics than the supernatural elements. I hadn't thought about this one in a while but I still own the book (the old version).

  17. nikki says:

    ANON-Yes! Ghost Beneath Our Feet. God, I know I read that but I hadn't thought of it in years. Kathryn – thanks for the link!

  18. Betty Ren Wright lives in my city πŸ™‚ I'm pretty sure I have an autographed copy of this book somewhere.

  19. Sara M. says:

    OMG, more Betty Ren Wright please! I LOVED this book and all of her books when I was a kid. This brought back so many memories!

  20. Ally says:

    I'm hating myself for not remembering many of the books you write about. What's wrong with me? Maybe I'm too old 😦Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing

  21. nikki says:

    Ally, I'm pretty sure we're about the same age, which means definitely NOT too old! I just had the good fortune of growing up very close to an amazing used book store AND having two older sisters who loved to read nearly as much as I did. Our house was a children's and Y.A. lit mecca!

  22. LiLu says:

    I'm ashamed to admit these scared me…

  23. OMG, I loved the shit out of this book, although: a) adult me also isn't so cool with the ending, and b) I also agree that Amy was given too much responsibility for a 12-year-old. I thought that even then–why hadn't her parents ever taken Louann to Mrs. Peck's before, especially considering Mrs. Peck had a special needs granddaughter about her age? Would have given both Amy and Louann some much-needed space and independence. Oh well.Also, what I really remember is how Clare talked about her "friendly little block" in Chicago and how she'd go grocery shopping for just a few items at a time. I now live on a "friendly little block" in Chicago and grocery shop the same way–and sometimes I think of this book! Seriously. πŸ™‚

  24. Shannon says:

    I just found your blog when I saw you posted on another blog I read. I had to comment when I saw this book review. When I was around 10, I LOVED this book. It was just the right amount of creepy for me. πŸ™‚ Thanks for bringing me back!

  25. Love love LOVE this…Thanks a million over for going through the trouble of tracking down the original cover, or else I would never have remembered it existed. And yes, I was totally scared of this book.

  26. I loved Christina's Ghost by the same author (I believe). That one was so much creepier (I thought).

  27. Splendibird says:

    I just found your blog thanks to the article on EW, and it rocks! I've not read this particular book but the TV show Ghost Whisperer totally ripped off the premise… Check it out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1256157/ Sound a bit familiar??

  28. Mandy says:

    OMG! I loved this book growing up! I’ve been trying to remember the name of this book for the longest time now and, thanks to a few keywords on Google, your blog was the first result.

    I agree about the cover. The new one sucks.

    Love the blog, review and trip down memory lane. =)

  29. Becky says:

    This book terrified me when I read it! I read this and Behind the Attic Wall because I had read When the Dolls Woke and really enjoyed it and I (stupidly) thought they would be in the same vein. Yeah, not so much! Though now I’m wondering if I still have my copy of Behind the Attic Wall somewhere because I want to give it another shot … I don’t remember that one scaring me, so much as it made me really sad.

  30. Shannon Brong says:

    My favorite book as a kid!!! Getting it for my 10 year old daughter for a summer reading book:) the new cover was soo messing me up!! Thanks for showing old cover now I know I’m not crazy!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s