The Dollhouse Murders

by Betty R. Wright

Paperback, 1983



Call number

PB Wri

Call number

PB Wri

Local notes

PB Wri





Scholastic Inc. (1983), 149 pages


A dollhouse filled with a ghostly light in the middle of the night and dolls that have moved from where she last left them lead Amy and her retarded sister to unravel the mystery surrounding grisly murders that took place years ago.


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

149 p.; 7.5 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member cathyskye
Young Adult Fiction, Grades 4-6

First Line: Amy Treloar kicked off her shoes and climbed onto a cushioned bench in the middle of Regents Mall.

Amy is a young girl who wants to spend time with friends, but she finds it difficult to make them because she always seems to be in charge of her
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developmentally disabled sister. After her latest argument with her mother, Amy runs off and finds herself in the vicinity of her aunt, who lost her job in Chicago and is staying in her grandparents' house getting it ready for sale. Helping her aunt in the attic, Amy finds a wonderful dollhouse, a perfect match in every detail to the house in which she's standing. She finds her aunt's aversion to the dollhouse peculiar, but brushes it off until she discovers something very creepy: the little people in the dollhouse can move...and they seem to be trying to tell her something. Dissatisfied with her aunt's explanation, Amy starts sleuthing, and it's not long until she finds out that her great-grandparents were murdered in the house and that her aunt's fiance (who died the same night in a car wreck) has always been blamed for the crime. Are the little dollhouse people trying to tell her whom the murderer is?

I was almost immediately hooked by this book and was actually creeped out by those little dollhouse people. The main plot was fast-paced and engrossing, but the sub-plot involving Amy, her sister and her parents was very good as well. I can see why The Dollhouse Murders has been a popular mystery for twenty years, has won awards, and has been translated into dozens of languages. I wish it had been around when I was a child!
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LibraryThing member bibliophile26
I read this book for nostalgic reasons. It is about a girl who goes to visit her aunt and discovers a dollhouse in the attic. The dollhouse is a replica of the house she is staying in (her father's childhood home) and the dolls represent members of the family...Amy's aunt as a teenager, her father
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as a young boy and her two grandparents. Amy discovers the dolls moving by themselves, placing themselves in the positions they were in the night of the grandparents' terrible murder. Amy, her friend Ellen and her mentally handicapped sister Louann band together to solve the murder mystery. My sister and I loved this book when we were kids...reading it again, I found it extremely cheesy and the mystery was too easy to figure out.
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LibraryThing member SandSing7
This was one of my favorite books as a child! In retrospect it was incredibly cheesy, but I read it over and over again. I just loved it!!
LibraryThing member allawishus
This is a pretty satisfying intermediate level ghost story - Amy goes to stay with her Aunt Clare and discovers a haunted dollhouse in the attic. There are fully fleshed out secondary characters in the book - Aunt Clare and Amy's retarded sister Louann are particularly well drawn. The secondary
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subplot of learning to cope in an imperfect family ties in nicely to the ghostly main plot. I remember reading this when I was in elementary school and enjoying it a lot; it's a quick, easy read and a good suggestion for those looking for "scary stories."
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LibraryThing member sports-star
I really liked this book. Amys great grandparents died but she didnt know how. Then she finds out they were murdered in their own home, the home where she's staying with her aunt right now. In the attic she finds a doll house thats an exact replica of the house. The dolls are even the grandparents
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living in the house at one time. When Aunt Clare looks in the house the next day, she finds the dolls in the exact spot the real people were murdered. She acuses Amy but Amy didnt do it.The doll house is holding a secret, the secret of the murderer.
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LibraryThing member t1bclasslibrary
Amy is desperate to escape her special needs sister, who she believes is getting in the way of her making any friends. She goes to spend time in her great-grandparents' house with her aunt and discovers a dollhouse that is an almost perfect replica of her great-grandparent's house. It seems to be
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haunted, however, and the dolls keep enacting a murder. The dolls give a clue that can clear her aunt's concience, and her aunt helps her make friends and work through living with her sister.
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LibraryThing member nkendzior8
A dollhouse filled with a ghostly light in the middle of the night and dolls that have moved from where she last left them lead Amy and her mentally-challenged sister to unravel the mystery surrounding grisly murders that took place years ago.
LibraryThing member ptnguyen
Ages 9 to 12

While visiting her Aunt Clare, Amy discovers her aunt's long-lost forgotten dollhouse in the attic. The dollhouse is a replica of her aunt's current house. Her aunt becomes distressed when Amy mentions about her find. However, Amy becomes mesmerized by the dollhouse, especially when she
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realizes that the dolls move on numerous occasions. It is then that Amy is determined that the dolls are trying to tell her something. In addition, Amy finds out that her aunt is living with a troubled conscience. Along with her brain-damaged sister, Louann, Amy and her sister unravel a family secret: the murder of her grandparents by her aunt's fiancee, Tom. In addition to solving the mystery, Amy helps Aunt Clare to resolve her feelings.

Amy's relationship with her parents, best friend, and Louann adds depth and warmth to this crisply paced tale. When Amy and Louann unravel the secret, Amy learns to accept her sister and her capability and intelligence.
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LibraryThing member EmScape
Amy is tired of always having the 'burden' of taking care of her developmentally disabled sister. Fortunately for her, her Aunt Clare has recently moved back to town to pack up the house that belonged to Amy's great-grandparents. Amy takes refuge there and finds in the attic an amazing dollhouse
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that is the exact replica of the house that contains it. Then, the dolls start moving by themselves, re-creating the scene of the great-grandparents' murder. What is the dollhouse trying to tell them?
This was easily one of my favorite books in my pre-teen years. My copy is incredibly worn from repeated readings. Upon re-reading as an adult, I find it holds up well. Amy's conflict with her sister is very genuine and heartfelt. The mystery of the dollhouse is still suspenseful and reveals a satisfying secret. Aunt Clare is a realistic adult and quite three-dimensional. Recommended for any pre-teen girl.
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LibraryThing member frozenplums
This book legitimately creeped me out. Amy and her little sister are staying in a big old house with their great aunt where they stumble upon an old dollhouse in the attic - an exact replica of the house they're staying in, complete with small china dolls representing the family members. But at
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night the dollhouse animates and the dolls reenact the murder of Amy's grandparents all those years ago.

Maybe you don't find tiny china dolls acting out a murder creepy, but I kept the light on after finishing this book for a little longer than I care to admit.
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LibraryThing member jthodesen01
This book is great for second grade through fourth grade as an independent read. The book is also a great tool to use as a class and to examine. This book would provide great discussion topics and allows students to learn about making educated inferences. The setting of the book is unique and
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provides readers with a topic that they may have never been exposed to, murders, told through a doll house. The odd plot draws readers in and gives a unique twist to the typical mystery novel. The vocabulary of the text is not too challenging, but it also is not too simple. The clues given throughout the book intrigue readers because it gives them the chance to solve the mystery on their own as they read the text.
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LibraryThing member lkmuir
A dollhouse filled with a ghostly light in the middle of the night and dolls that have moved from where she last left them, lead Amy and her retarded sister to unravel the mystery surrounding grisly murders that took place years ago.
LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
A disaffected young girl finds an old dollhouse--but the dolls move on their own. Are they trying to tell her something about a tragic death that occurred years ago?
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
When you work at a library, it's not uncommon for discussion to center around books. So imagine, one day, my colleagues and I are discussing the juvenile classics of the 80s. (By the way, this conversation was birthed while browsing the pages of Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss.) From this
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conversation came a call to read The Dollhouse Murders. I said, sure, why not. Immediately I regretted this. I had far too many books already on my to-read pile. It was Man Booker season, and I really didn't have time for a juvenile mystery about a dollhouse. But I checked out the book anyway.

Fortunately, the copy my library had was the original 1983 hardback. Why was this a good thing? Because it transported me to a very different time. How different? Let's take a look at the novel's description from the flap:

Each time Amy goes up to the attic in the middle of the night, the dollhouse is filled with a ghostly light and the dolls have moved from where she last left them. Even though Amy's terrified, she knows the dolls are trying to tell her something. But what? Could their movements be connected to the grisly murders that took place years before?
Amy becomes increasingly alarmed when her aunt Clare, who owns the dollhouse, grows angry at her questions.
In a spine-chilling climax, Amy and her retarded sister unravel the mystery and liberate their aunt from a terrible burden of guilt. [emphasis mine]

That was the 1980s for you. Amy's sister didn't even have a name. (Fortunately, Betty Ren Wright was much more sensitive to Amy's sister than whomever wrote that copy at her publisher's. Amy's sister is named Louann by the way.) I cringed as I cracked the cover.

I admit my expectations were low. I can be a little bit of a book snob, and The Dollhouse Murders clearly wasn't going to be “my thing.” What more can I say? I was sucked right in. Taking into consideration the intended juvenile audience, The Dollhouse Murders presents an interesting cast of characters, as well as a story that is chilling and riveting. Sure, it's an absurd plot about dolls reenacting a murder, but it's well-written and compelling. It's a mildly scary mystery, not all that different from your average Stephen King story. Sure, for every part King there's one part Judy Blume, but I consider that an asset. For one thing, Blume is far better at creating believable, multi-dimensional characters than King ever was. No different here. Though The Dollhouse Murders was certainly little more than juvenile escapist lit, it was a very entertaining read.
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LibraryThing member mutantpudding
Subtly creepy ghosts and family tragedy combine for a book that I liked as a kid and still enjoyed reading as an adult. There is some outdated language in reference to the protagonists disabled sister (there are a couple r-slurs in there) but the subject was handled surprisingly well and
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respectfully. The story is about the characters growing from their interaction with the supernatural, which to be is what makes a good ghost story.
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LibraryThing member sscarllet
I read this book several times over as a child in the late 80's and was pleased to return to it now.

When I was younger I'm sure that I was fixated on the scary part of the book, creepy dolls! But as an adult I was more concerend with poor Amy and her relationship with her family. [ It botheres me
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that Amy was meant to take care of her sister so often and that her mother really couldn't understand that she needed some time to herself. I think the happy family ending is meant to fix this, but it seems to little too late and like Amy will need some thearapy as an adult. (hide spoiler)]

I did enjoy rereading The Dollhouse Murders and am very pleased to have reconected to an old favorite.
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LibraryThing member jen.e.moore
After seeing this book on this list and remembering it as a favorite of my childhood, I had to reread it. And it's even better than I remembered. I admire children's books where the adults are fully-rounded people, if incomprehensible to the children, and that's exactly what happens here. When I
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first read it, I identified strongly with the narrator, Amy; now I feel very much for her Aunt Claire (who clearly remembers, just as I do, what it was like to be Amy when she was young). Definitely recommended for kids who ask for scary books.
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LibraryThing member ftbooklover
Because Amy is so tired of caring for her mentally challenged sister, Louann, she goes to stay for a few days with her Aunt Clare who is in town for the summer to close up and sell the house where her grandparents were murdered. Amy finds a dollhouse in the attic that looks just like the house
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where she is staying, right down to the furniture. Amy places some dolls in the house and enjoys playing with them until one morning, she wakes up and finds that they are in different places than the night before. Clare becomes very angry when Amy tells her about the moving dolls because she thinks Amy is lying to her and moving the dolls herself into the positions where her grandparents were found after the murder.
It is difficult to determine what is going on with the dollhouse in The Dollhouse Murders. Are the dolls really moving themselves or is someone going to the attic each night an moving them? There is also the unsolved murder of Clare's grandparents from years before, making this an interesting and unique mystery.
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LibraryThing member katieloucks
love this book - creepy, but loved it




½ (210 ratings; 3.8)
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