Poppet is the sixth book in the Jack Caffery series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for previous books. If you haven’t read any Mo Hayder yet (why not?) here’s the reading order:

#2 The Treatment
#3 Ritual
#5 Gone

The hysteria is rising in the Beechway high security psychiatric unit. A spate of self-harming incidents and the death of a patient had stirred up stories of The Maude, a ghostly dwarf who haunts the halls. Left to cover for absent colleagues, senior nurse AJ starts to piece together some troubling facts, leading him to call the in the police… And DI Jack Caffery’s superior is looking for just the thing to pull him from the fruitless search for the missing Misty Kitson.

I’ve always known Mo Hayder could scare me senseless, but Poppet has one of the most disturbing first chapters I’ve ever read. The thought of a creepy little dwarf running round an asylum, sitting on people’s chests as they sleep, was terrifying and made me hesitant to turn off the lights after reading. Many of the scenes take place in bedrooms of sorts and there is something extra scary about being targeted in somewhere that should be safe. Once AJ and Jack start digging deeper, it loses its horror somewhat, yet remains a tense and gripping read.

The novel alternates between the current case and that of Misty Kitson, the missing model we were introduced to in Skin. I was torn between the two plot-lines, wanting the thrills of the main story but also hating to be torn away from Jack and Flea’s interactions. Jack is determined to bring up you-know-what with Flea and she is determined to keep things buried. For those who haven’t read the series, the lack of context may cause confusion and take away from the enjoyment of the central plot, which is otherwise a strong standalone story.

Without giving too much away, I love how Hayder manages to turn your feelings round, upside down and through the ringer. It started off with fear but ended with a few awwws for me. Little glimpses into characters’ lives make such an impact in her writing. Just brilliant. I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next instalment…

Poppet is published by Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, and will be available in hardback and ebook editions from 28th March 2013. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.

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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.