Book Review

Book Review : “Darkside” by Belinda Bauer.

Shipcott in bleak mid-winter: a close knit community where no stranger goes unnoticed. So when an elderly woman is murdered in her bed, village policeman Jonas Holly is doubly shocked. How could someone have killed and left no trace?

Jonas finds himself sidelined as the investigation is snatched away from him by an abrasive senior detective. Is his first murder investigation over before it’s begun?

But this isn’t the end of it for Jonas, because someone in the village is taunting him, blaming him for the tragedy, and watching every move he makes. Someone thinks he’s not doing hisjob. And when the killer claims another vulnerable victim, these taunts turn into sinister threats.

Blinded by rising paranoia, relentless snow and fear for his own invalid wife, Jonas strikes out alone on a mystifying hunt. But the threats don’t stop – and neither do the murders . . .

I read Belinda Bauer’s debut novel Blacklands last year and loved it so I couldn’t wait to get started on reading her new book. Set in the same community as Blacklands but a few years on Bauer again weaves a tense thriller that had me gripped from start to finish.

On first look the plot line looks like something you’d find in a typical British murder drama; a small community, a series of shocking murders, people who are hiding secrets and an incoming detective who thinks he knows it all. There is so much more to the book than this however, I found that each time I started to think I knew where it was going the rug was pulled from under me as another thread of the plot fell into place. When I got to the last few chapters I sat reading with my mouth wide open, the skillful conclusion of all of the threads left me thinking about the book for days.

One of things I love about Bauer’s writing is the way that every character is treated with such care and attention. I really felt like I knew so many of the characters that were popping up, whether they were vital to the plot or just part of the background. Whilst DCI Marvel was fairly obnoxious I felt he was probably pretty true to life, and at times he had me laughing out loud. It was also lovely to see Steven Lamb return from Blacklands, and see what life had brought him next.

Blacklands was a great book, Darkside is even better. If this is the way Belinda Bauer is developing I can not wait to see where she goes next.

“Darkside” is published in hardback by Transworld books in the UK priced £12.99 from 6th January 2011. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review

Book Review : “Blacklands” by Belinda Bauer.

Stephen Lamb was born to a family struggling to cope with a tragedy. Years ago when his mother was a young girl her brother was kidnapped and killed by a serial killer. Whereas the bodies of most of his victims were found, buried on Exmoor, the body of Stephen’s Uncle Billy was never found. Stephen knows that if he can find the body his family might be able to begin to heal, and so spends all of his free time digging on the moor hoping each time that today will be his lucky day. A school lesson on persuasive writing makes him realise that he has a knack for letter writing, and so he decides that maybe there might be a better way to find the location of Billy’s grave.

This debut novel by Belinda Bauer has won this year’s CWA Golden Dagger Award so I was keen to give it a go. Within the first few chapters I found myself getting pulled into the story, and soon found it hard to put it down. I kept setting arbitrary points at which I would stop reading and get on with all the things I should be doing, but as soon as I hit my stop point I found a reason to set a new point and just carry on reading.

The plot is a carefully crafted one that deals with some potentially difficult topics. A lot of time is focused on Arnold Avery, the child killer and paedophile, and at times reading what he is thinking and plotting does make for uncomfortable reading. I have seen other reviewers draw parallels with the Moors Murders and can see that for some this would be a challenging read. I personally thought the balance was well kept, and a lot of crime thrillers contain content that isn’t suited to all readers’ tastes.

I thought the characters were well crafted, and the plot was certainly engaging. I will be looking forward to reading what Bauer writes next.

“Blacklands” is published in paperback by Corgi Books in the UK. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.