We could be looking at the next Jack Ketchum here. Actually, Karen Runge is quite her own identity, her own voice that simply delves into the deep, dark places which Ketchum mined so well. Doll Crimes is a novel that will likely disturb while it also examines the human soul, the good, the bad, and the downright evil in a manner that digs so deep, readers will have a tough time forgetting the characters long after the final page is turned.
Runge opens the novel with a mother and her daughter on the run. From what, or who, we have no idea, but they’re moving in a direction that appears dangerous. The daughter serves as the main character, her mother a mere fifteen years older than her, which makes for a relationship and dynamic that is closer to sisters or close friends than a maternal bond.
The two travel from town to town, scamming people for food and shelter, money and more. Yet, they are aiming higher. They seek something permanent, even if they’re not quite sure what that entails. They shack up with a pair of interesting characters at different places in the story. One who may be helpful to the girl, or simply another shadow with varying degrees of darkness. The other, a drug dealer, just might be a bit more stable than the mother.
To write much about the specifics of the plot would spoil the emotional heft of the book, but please give this one a shot. The gut punch Runge inflicts upon the reader is a tough one, but there’s a strong reason to wade through the razor-tinged gauntlet of the travels of these two broken characters: the writing.
Karen Runge can turn the vicious into precious with a turn of the phrase and knows how to wring every ounce of passion and pain from a scene. The loss of one’s innocence is key here, and made much more powerful by the fact that the character believes it to be what families do.