Tom Benn

The Doll Princess

"I believe this novel, his first, will gain cult status in the coming years."


Henry Bane reads about the murder of an Egyptian socialite who is front page news. Buried deeper in the newspaper is another brutal murder which shocks Bane to his core. It is this second death of a cheap prostitute that leads Bane on a path of discovery and revenge. For this second death was once the love of Bane’s life, a childhood sweetheart who he should have protected. Now he can no longer protect her, but he can avenge her. But first he must penetrate the cold exterior of the whore he calls ‘The Doll Princess’ to get to the inner circle he blames for this brutal murder.

Taking him through a Manchester in the 90’s, ravaged by the IRA, Bane insinuates himself deep in the murky depths of the city he grew up in. Soon Bane is beaten, bludgeoned, shot at but still determined. And by the time Bane finally arrives at the truth, there will be a veritable pile of bodies left in Bane’s wake.

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‘The Doll Princess’ is written in the vernacular Mancunian and it took me a little while to enter the rhythm of this novel, and when you do it grips like a vice and you are transported to a Manchester that appears like a character in the book – brooding, breathing, menacing. The book is driven by dialogue which is staccato and as sharp as a stiletto. For a debut novel it is breathtaking that this writer writes such incredible dialogue that drives the plot with the force of a fist connecting with Henry Bane’s face. Some authors dream of writing such pure dialogue that shows a thousand emotions and tells a hundred tales of despair in a few simple words. But this is not only a crime novel. It is shot with dark humour. Not only do we have the Millennium’s answer to Tom Ripley’s anti-hero, we have solid and believable characters like Bane’s best mate, Gordon and his dad and Maz who you’d be well advised never to buy a car from. ‘The Doll Princess’ is a fresh tour-de-force that defies you to categorise it simply as a ‘crime novel’. It shows the light and dark of humanity, good and evil in its purest form and how a man can watch your back whilst holding a knife to your spine. Benn is an exciting new talent and I believe this novel, his first, will gain cult status in the coming years. He is Manchester’s answer to Irvine Welsh. And if ‘The Doll Princess’ isn’t made in to a cult film then I’ll eat my review! Read it, enjoy and watch a major literary talent blossom before your very eyes!

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