Snap by Belinda Bauer

Curate’s egg…

🙂 🙂 🙂

When eleven-year-old Jack and his two younger sisters are left in their broken-down car while their mother goes off to phone for help, Jack is left in charge. This is a responsibility that will weigh heavily on him over the next few years when first his mother never returns and then later his father too disappears. Meantime Catherine While, heavily pregnant with her first child, is terrified when a burglar leaves a knife beside her pillow with a note that says simply: I could have killed you. For reasons of her own, Catherine decides to tell neither her husband Adam nor the police about this episode – a decision she will learn to regret.

Following the outcome of his last case, The Shut Eye, DCI Marvel has been shunted out of the Met, and isn’t best pleased when he ends up in the countryside – not his natural habitat. He’s even more annoyed when the first case that’s handed to him is to investigate a series of burglaries by a perpetrator codenamed Goldilocks. Marvel sees himself as a murder detective and feels his talents are being wasted. But he gets his wish anyway, as he is soon involved in investigating the unsolved murder of Jack’s mother…

I suspect my reading of lots of compact, tightly plotted classic crime recently has made me even less tolerant than before of the over-padding of much contemporary crime fiction. This book unfortunately takes about half its length to reveal what it’s going to be about, and as soon as it does the whodunit along with the how become pretty obvious, so that the second half is mostly spent waiting to see how Bauer is going to handle the ending. The motive is still left to be uncovered which means that it maintains some suspense, though, and there are some little side mysteries along the way that add interest; and Bauer’s writing is always laced with a nice mixture of dark and light so that in the pacier parts it’s an entertaining read. But I found that I was skipping entire pages at about the thirdway point – never a good sign! – because I was tired of the endless, rather repetitive setting up and wanted to get to the bit where the two threads finally came together as it was obvious they would, and we found out what the book was actually going to be about.

Belinda Bauer

Unfortunately I also found I had lots of credibility issues with too many aspects of the book, from the idea of Jack managing to hold his family together in the way he does, to Catherine’s reasons for not saying anything about the threats she’s receiving, to Marvel’s policing methods. I tried my best, though, to switch off my disbelief and go with the flow. And, happily, from about halfway through when the two stories finally begin to converge, it becomes a more interesting read, and I found that finally I was turning pages quickly for the right reasons. The pace improves and there’s quite a lot of Bauer’s usual humour in the interactions between the various police officers on the case. Bauer is always great at making her child characters feel believable, and she does here too with Jack, even though I found his actions less than credible. While the main storyline itself heads on a straight line to exactly where one expects, there’s an intriguing subplot in the second half that kept my interest. But, unfortunately, the thrillerish ending fell off the credibility tightrope again.

So, although there are some enjoyable aspects of the book once it picks up speed, the slowness of the first half combined with the requirement to suspend disbelief more than I could manage left me feeling that it’s not really close to her best.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Grove Atlantic.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

Bookish selfie…

A snapshot of my reading week in quotes…

….The fox stopped. Without turning, he said in a husky whisper:
….“I am renouncing the world, dear Sister. I have forsworn the consumption of chicken. From now on my diet will consist of nothing but plants and herbs.”
….The hen was astounded. She said:
….“Are you calling me Sister? Why, you are my worst enemy!”
….“We are all brothers and sisters. We are one family,” said the fox. “What I wish for now is to live in peace and quiet. I am going on the pilgrimage, on the Hajj, Sister. But don’t tell anyone.”
….The hen said:
….“Going on the Hajj? I beg you, take me with you. I won’t tell a soul.”
….He said:
….“I’ll take you with me on one condition: that you keep your distance. Don’t walk too close to me. I don’t want anyone who sees us to think I am planning to eat you up.”

From: Abu Ali the Fox (you just know it’s not going to end well for the hen, don’t you?)

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….Clarke unfolded the two-page letter, which was dated March 31, and saw that it was indeed from Kubrick. Fairly brief, quite to the point, it seemingly had two clear agendas. One was picking his brain about a possible telescope purchase (the director mentioned a Questar telescope in the first and last sentences). The other was his desire to discuss “the possibility of doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science fiction movie.” This line – the second after the Questar bit – would become well known, and certainly served as the initial aim of the nascent project Kubrick was proposing.
….“My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character,” Kubrick wrote. “1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. 2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such discovery would have on Earth in the near future. 3. A space probe with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.”

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.He held a white cloth – it was a serviette he had brought with him – over the lower part of his face, so that his mouth and jaws were completely hidden, and that was the reason for his muffled voice. But it was not that which startled Mrs. Hall, It was the fact that all his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and that another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. It was bright, pink, and shiny just as it had been at first. He wore a dark-brown velvet jacket with a high, black, linen-lined collar turned up about his neck. The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable. This muffled and bandaged head was so unlike what she had anticipated, that for a moment she was rigid.

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….There was a noise.
….She couldn’t identify quite what or where it was, but it sounded like somebody trying not to make a sound.
….Somebody in the house.
….Catherine’s neck prickled with ancient warning.
….She was thirty-one and had lived alone all her adult life until she’d moved in with Adam nearly two years before. When you lived alone, and you heard a noise in the night, you didn’t cower under the bedclothes and wait for your fate to saunter up the stairs and down the hallway. When you lived alone, you got up and grabbed the torch, the bat, the hairspray, and you sneaked downstairs to confront…
….The dishwasher.
….Which was the only thing that had ever made a noise loud enough to wake her.
….But she hadn’t set the dishwasher…

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….Yesterday, walking around the places in central Bogotá where some of the events that I’m going to explore in this report happened, trying to make sure once more that nothing has escaped me in its painstaking reconstruction, I found myself wondering aloud how I’ve come to know these things I might be better off not knowing: how had I come to spend so much time thinking about these dead people, living with them, talking to them, listening to their regrets and regretting, in turn, not being able to do anything to alleviate their suffering. And I was astonished that it had all started with a few casual words, casually spoken by Dr Benavides inviting me to his house. At that moment, I thought I was accepting in order not to deny someone my time who had been generous with his own at a difficult moment, so the visit would simply be one more commitment out of the many insignificant things that use up our lives. I couldn’t know how mistaken I’d been, for what happened that night put in motion a frightful mechanism that would only end with this book: this book written in atonement for crimes that, although I did not commit them, I have ended up inheriting. 

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So…are you tempted?

TBR Thursday 157…

Episode 157…

Well, as anticipated, after last week’s huge fall in the TBR, it all went horribly wrong this week – up SEVEN to 221! This looks a bit like me whenever the postman knocks the door…

The only solution is to read, read, READ…

Factual

Courtesy of NetGalley. I thought I needed cheering up after all those Russian Revolutionaries, and what could be more laugh-a-minute than a book about the rise of Hitler? (Note to self: make therapist appointment…)

The Blurb says: On the evening of November 8, 1923, the thirty-four-year-old Adolf Hitler stormed into a beer hall in Munich, fired his pistol in the air, and proclaimed a revolution. Seventeen hours later, all that remained of his bold move was a trail of destruction. Hitler was on the run from the police. His career seemed to be over.

In The Trial of Adolf Hitler, the acclaimed historian David King tells the true story of the monumental criminal proceeding that followed when Hitler and nine other suspects were charged with high treason. Reporters from as far away as Argentina and Australia flocked to Munich for the sensational four-week spectacle. By its end, Hitler would transform the fiasco of the beer hall putsch into a stunning victory for the fledgling Nazi Party. It was this trial that thrust Hitler into the limelight, provided him with an unprecedented stage for his demagoguery, and set him on his improbable path to power.

Based on trial transcripts, police files, and many other new sources, including some five hundred documents recently discovered from the Landsberg Prison record office, The Trial of Adolf Hitler is a gripping true story of crime and punishment – and a haunting failure of justice with catastrophic consequences.

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Crime

Courtesy of NetGalley. I usually love Belinda Bauer’s books, and then very occasionally I don’t. Hopefully this will fall into the love category, though the blurb has me worried. But frankly I’m just so excited to see a contemporary crime novel that doesn’t have the ubiquitous “girl in a red/yellow coat walking away” on the cover – a sure sign the insides will be as formulaic as the outsides. Happily, Bauer’s insides can be depended on to be original (as the pathologist said to the mortician…)

The Blurb says: On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long. But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever. Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.

Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.

But the truth can be a dangerous thing . .

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Folklore

Courtesy of NetGalley again. To be honest, I’m not at all sure this is going to be my kind of thing, but it’s good to step out of the tramlines from time to time, and it’ll be an interesting stop on my Around the World tour…

The Blurb says: A collection of 30 traditional Syrian and Lebanese folktales infused with new life by Lebanese women, collected by Najla Khoury.

While civil war raged in Lebanon, Najla Khoury travelled with a theatre troupe, putting on shows in marginal areas where electricity was a luxury, in air raid shelters, Palestinian refugee camps, and isolated villages. Their plays were largely based on oral tales, and she combed the country in search of stories. Many years later, she chose one hundred stories from among the most popular and published them in Arabic in 2014, exactly as she received them, from the mouths of the storytellers who told them as they had heard them when they were children from their parents and grandparents. Out of the hundred stories published in Arabic, Inea Bushnaq and Najla Khoury chose thirty for this book.

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Fiction

Courtesy of Amazon Vine UK. I know nothing about this book or author, but the blurb makes it sound like just my kind of thing. (🤣 Worrying, isn’t it?) And will be another fascinating detour on my world trip…

The Blurb says: The Shape of the Ruins is a masterly story of conspiracy, political obsession, and literary investigation. When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killings.

This novel explores the darkest moments of a country’s past and brings to life the ways in which past violence shapes our present lives. A compulsive read, beautiful and profound, eerily relevant to our times and deeply personal, The Shape of the Ruins is a tour-de-force story by a master at uncovering the incisive wounds of our memories.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

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The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer

Murder as performance art…

🙂 🙂 🙂

the-beautiful-deadTV reporter Eve Singer is on the crime beat, so she’s called to the scene of a brutal murder committed in the foyer of an office building, just feet from where people are passing by on the pavement outside. This is a murderer who likes to perform his gory crimes in public, and then stage them as if it were some kind of performance art. When he makes contact with Eve, at first it seems like a great thing – she’ll have the exclusive story and it will give her career a much needed boost. But soon she realises that she’s becoming caught up in the murderer’s schemes, almost to the point of becoming an accessory…

First off, let me say that I love Belinda Bauer. And this book has in it many of the things I love her for – the great writing, touches of humour, some nice building of suspense and an original and dramatic climax. However, for me, this isn’t one of her best. It feels derivative – there are touches of Hannibal and Clarice in the relationship between Eve and the killer, and heavy shades of Psycho over the storyline. Perhaps there’s not much new left to say in the serial killer novel – certainly it’s been a while since I read one that felt fresh. But the derivations in this one seemed so blatant that I wondered at points if she was deliberately referencing some of the greats as a kind of inside joke, but if so, it didn’t quite come off, and simply ended up feeling rather unoriginal.

The structure also doesn’t feel up to Bauer’s usual standard. We are given biographies of the characters rather than being allowed to get to know them through the plot – whatever happened to ‘show, don’t tell’? Eve’s father suffers from dementia and this is used partly to give some humour to the book – always tricky with such a sensitive subject and I felt it occasionally passed over into tastelessness. And while I thought the portrayal of his dementia was well done for most of the book, when it became part of the plotting in the later stages it crossed the credibility line and began to feel contrived and inauthentic, and I found myself feeling that this awful disease was being used for entertainment purposes rather than being given the empathy it deserves. The humour didn’t work as well for me as usual, I didn’t take to Eve much, and the amount of lazy swearing throughout became utterly tedious, not to mention Eve’s need to vomit every time a corpse turned up.

Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer

On the upside, there are passages where Bauer achieves that delicious feeling of creepiness, for example, when Eve thinks she’s being followed home in the dark, and it does have a great thriller ending which redeemed it a little in my eyes. I was also pleased that this murderer was pretty eclectic in his choice of victims, not exclusively butchering vulnerable young women. But overall, this is one I’m going to put down to an off day, and go back to waiting avidly for her next offering. I’ve given it three stars but, in truth, I think one of those stars is from a mixture of loyalty and the feeling that I may be judging it too harshly because of my perhaps overly high expectations. Because, despite this one, I do love Belinda Bauer. I can’t help wondering in general if the pressure to get a new book out every year is really a good thing in the long run…

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Grove Atlantic.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 105…

Episode 105…

My persistent attempt at exercising willpower is finally showing results, with another week where my TBR has remained stable – at 176! Happily, the review copy backlog has dropped 4 to 32, of which only 18 are overdue – the best it’s been for a long time. Feeling good about being able to get off the review copy treadmill in the new year, and having time to read some of the books I’ve been stockpiling for far too long.

Of course, I’m still looking forward to getting review copies of books from favourite authors and there’s a couple of those here, specially scheduled to ensure some great reading over the festive season. A bumper edition this week, since this will be the last TBR post till 2017…

Factual

how-shakespeare-put-politics-on-the-stageCourtesy of NetGalley. Shakespeare, politics, a bit of history and Yale University Press – how could it go wrong? Hmm… early reviews, including one from a reviewer I know and trust on this kind of book, suggest it could be way too academic and dry for my dilettante mind… but we’ll see…

The Blurb says: With an ageing, childless monarch, lingering divisions due to the Reformation, and the threat of foreign enemies, Shakespeare’s England was fraught with unparalleled anxiety and complicated problems. In this monumental work, Peter Lake reveals, more than any previous critic, the extent to which Shakespeare’s plays speak to the depth and sophistication of Elizabethan political culture and the Elizabethan imagination. Lake reveals the complex ways in which Shakespeare’s major plays engaged with the events of his day, particularly regarding the uncertain royal succession, theological and doctrinal debates, and virtue and virtù in politics. Through his plays, Lake demonstrates, Shakespeare was boldly in conversation with his audience about a range of contemporary issues. This remarkable literary and historical analysis pulls the curtain back on what Shakespeare was really telling his audience and what his plays tell us today about the times in which they were written.

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Crime

the-beautiful-deadCourtesy of NetGalley. I have no doubts about this one though! A new Belinda Bauer is always a major treat…

The Blurb says:  In her latest, The Beautiful Dead, Bauer turns the trope of the media-attention-hungry killer on its head, with a riveting narrative centered on a down-on-her-luck crime reporter and a serial killer desperate for the spotlight.

Crime reporter Eve Singer’s career is on the downward slope when a spate of bizarre murders—each carefully orchestrated and advertised like performance art—begin in her territory. Covering these very public crimes revives her byline, and when the killer contacts Eve to discuss her coverage of his crimes, she is suddenly on the inside of the biggest murder investigation of the decade. But as the killer becomes increasingly obsessed with her, Eve realizes there’s a thin line between inside information and becoming an accomplice to murder—possibly her own.

A seamlessly-plotted thriller that will keep readers breathless until the very end, The Beautiful Dead cements Belinda Bauer’s reputation as a master of heart-stopping suspense..

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Crime

cast-ironCourtesy of Quercus via MidasPR. The new Peter May has become part of my festive tradition in recent years. I’m going to whisper a little secret though – the Enzo Files series, of which this is #6, isn’t my favourite May series. In fact, I’ve only read a couple of them. The earlier ones were written several years ago, before the Lewis series, and I do think he’s been at his peak for the last few years, so will he be able to change my mind? Exciting… and even May’s less good books are still way ahead of most of the competition…

The Blurb says: West of France, 1989. A weeping killer deposits the unconscious body of nineteen year old Lucie Martin, her head wrapped in a blue plastic bag, into the water of a picturesque lake.

Lot-et-Garonne, 2003. Fourteen years later a summer heatwave parches the earth, killing trees and bushes and drying out streams. In the scorched mud and desiccated slime of the lake a fisherman finds a skeleton wearing a bag over its skull.

Paris, October 2011. In an elegant apartment in Paris, forensic expert Enzo Macleod pores over the scant evidence of this, the sixth cold case he has been challenged to solve. In taking on this old and seemingly impossible task he will put everything and everyone he holds dear in a peril he could never have imagined.

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Fiction

our-mutual-friendMy major festive reading tradition is to read Dickens (hence why there are five Dickens novels on my Classics Club list, including this one). For some incomprehensible reason, I’ve never read this one before – an omission I can’t wait to rectify…

The Blurb says: A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash. When the body of John Harmon, the dust-heap’s expected heir, is found in the Thames, fortunes change hands surprisingly, raising to new heights “Noddy” Boffin, a low-born but kindly clerk who becomes “the Golden Dustman.” Charles Dickens’s last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend encompasses the great themes of his earlier works: the pretensions of the nouveaux riches, the ingenuousness of the aspiring poor, and the unfailing power of wealth to corrupt all who crave it. With its flavorful cast of characters and numerous subplots, Our Mutual Friend is one of Dickens’s most complex—and satisfying—novels.

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Horror

dark-talesCourtesy of NetGalley. Horror stories are an essential part of the Christmas season – the perfect antidote to all that excess goodwill floating around. Bah, humbug! And who better than Shirley Jackson to shiver the spine…

The Blurb says: There’s something nasty in suburbia. In these deliciously dark tales, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunting world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the country manor, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods…

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Crime

maigret-and-the-tall-womanCourtesy of NetGalley. I’ve been enjoying reading some older crime fiction recently, so this should fit in nicely. I did read some Maigret in my youth, but that’s soooo long ago, he feels like a new-to-me author…

The Blurb says: A visit from a tall, thin woman he arrested many years ago—now married to a hapless burglar—leads Maigret on a tortuous investigation in which he struggles with a formidable suspect. The thirty-eighth book in the new Penguin Maigret series.

A face from Maigret’s past reappears to tell him about the misadventures of her husband, a safecracker nicknamed “Sad Freddie” who discovered a dead body while committing a burglary and fled the scene in a panic. In a race against the clock, Maigret must use his full arsenal of investigative methods to solve the crime.

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Fiction

el-doctorowCourtesy of NetGalley again! Some more short stories to fill in those short gaps that happen around this time of year, when there’s just not enough time to get properly stuck into a longer novel. And my first introduction to EL Doctorow…

The Blurb says: A superb collection of fifteen great stories by an American master, E. L. Doctorow—the author of Ragtime, The March, The Book of Daniel, and Billy Bathgate.

In A House on the Plains, a mother has a plan for financial independence, which may include murder. In Walter John Harmon, a man starts a cult using subterfuge and seduction. Jolene: A Life follows a teenager who escapes her home for Hollywood on a perilous quest for success. Heist, the account of an Episcopal priest coping with a crisis of faith, was expanded into the bestseller City of God. The Water Works, about the underbelly of 1870s New York, grew into a brilliant novel. Liner Notes: The Songs of Billy Bathgate is a corollary to the renowned novel and includes Doctorow’s revisions.

These fifteen brilliant stories, written from the 1960s to the early twenty-first century, and selected, revised, and placed in order by the author himself shortly before he died in 2015, are a testament to the genius of E. L. Doctorow.

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NB All blurbs taken from Goodreads.

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So…what do you think?
Doesn’t this just look like a fab festive reading list?

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Five of the Best!

FIVE 5-STAR READS
MARCH

SMILEYS

Each month this year, I’ll be looking back over my reviews of the past five years and picking out my favourite from each year. Cleo from Cleopatra Loves Books came up with this brilliant idea and kindly agreed to let me borrow it. I was a bit later in starting reviewing than Cleo, really getting properly underway in about April/May of 2011, so for the first few months I might have to be a bit creative in my 2011 selections.

So here are my favourite March reads…click on the covers to go to the full reviews, though it must be said my early reviews were somewhat basic…

 

2011

 

The BurningThis is the first in the Maeve Kerrigan series, though not Jane Casey’s first book. I loved Maeve as soon as we met her – an ambitious young police officer who gets on well with her colleagues and has a great sense of humour. Josh Derwent, who has grown into a major character as the series has progressed, is just one of the team in this book. The real male lead is the lovely Rob, and the budding romance between Maeve and him is handled beautifully. Ah, Rob! I’m worried that it’s all beginning to go horribly wrong between you and Maeve – can’t wait for the next book (After the Fire – due out on 18th June) to find out. Jane Casey has established herself as one of my must-read-on-publication-day-if-not-before authors, and it’s a double treat this year, since her third in the YA Jess Tennant series is due out in August.

 

2012

 

Charles Dickens Theatre CallowI adored this superbly readable and affectionate account of the great man’s life, viewing it from the perspective of how Dickens’ love for the world of the theatre influenced his life and work. Interspersed generously with Dickens’ own words, taken from his correspondence with friends, we get a real feel for his massive personality, his sense of fun, his unstoppable energy and, yes, his occasional pomposity too.

Who better to write such a book than Simon Callow, who has played Dickens so superbly on stage in his one man show? An exuberant and boisterous biography, and a fitting tribute to the affection Callow has for the man and his works.

 

2013

 

fallen landIn this extraordinary book, Flanery delves deep into the troubled American psyche in the post 9/11, post global crash world where the tectonic plates of certainty and complacency have shifted with volcanic and destructive results. Part terrifying psychological thriller/part wonderful literary novel, this book inspired me to start blogging so I could rave about it, won the FF Book of the Year Award for 2013, and my declaration that it should be nominated as the Great American Novel for this decade started off the GAN Quest! So it would be surprising if it didn’t appear as the best of March 2013, really, wouldn’t it? What do you mean you still haven’t read it? Why not???

 

2014

 

the martian coverAfter an accident during a dust storm, Mark Watney finds himself alone on Mars. His colleagues in the Ares 3 expedition believed he was dead and were forced to evacuate the planet while they still could. The communications system was broken in the storm so Mark can’t let anyone know he’s alive. And it’s four years till the next scheduled mission to Mars. I loved this book – more old-fashioned adventure story than sci-fi, really, with a wonderfully likeable protagonist, tons of humour, and a brilliantly depicted setting on the surface of Mars. Can’t wait for the film, nor to see what Andy Weir comes up with next…

 

2015

 

The Shut EyeBelinda Bauer is another of the more recent additions to my must-read list, and her latest novel lived up to my expectations. Little Daniel Buck ran out of his house one morning four months ago and has never been seen since. Edie Evans was older when she went missing several months earlier, nearly a teenager, but the signs are even more sinister in her case, since blood was found beside her broken and abandoned bicycle. Edie’s case still haunts DCI John Marvel, especially since he has convinced himself that she is still alive. Always well plotted, and with great characterisation, what I love most about Bauer’s books is the way she uses some pretty black humour to lift the tone of even the grimmest storylines. Clicking on the cover for this one will take you through to the Petrona Remembered blog, where my review can be found along with a host of great recommendations from other bloggers.

 

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If you haven’t already seen Cleo’s selection for March, why not pop on over? Here’s the link…

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer

Petrona Remembered…

 

The Shut Eye

Today’s review is appearing on the blog Petrona Remembered.

Petrona was the blog name of Maxine Clarke, a stalwart of the crime fiction blogging community until her death in 2012. I didn’t know her personally, but I hadn’t been blogging for long before I discovered how highly regarded she was both in the blogosphere and as one of Amazon UK’s top reviewers. It’s an honour therefore to contribute a review to the blog set up and run in her memory. I hope you’ll pop over to see my review and, while you’re there, you’ll find great recommendations from many other crime fiction bloggers, each of whom have selected a book that they think Maxine would have enjoyed. Don’t forget to follow – there’s a new recommendation from a different blogger every month.

Since the plot of my recommendation involves missing children, given my comments on last week’s review of The Winter Foundlings, you’ll also get to see how completely inconsistent I am when it comes to books – in the end, it’s all down to the quality of the writing… 😉

 

The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer reviewed on Petrona Remembered

 

 

TBR Thursday 48…

Episode 48

 

Oh, dear! The TBR has risen to its highest ever level of 138! And since nearly every book I’m reading at the moment is about a million pages long I seem to be getting through fewer than ever. Oh well – could be worse. The chocolate factories could have gone on strike…

Anyway, if I ever get through my current batch, here are a few upcoming delights to tantalize or appal you…

Factual

 

the innocents abroadSince I’m just about to read Huck Finn’s America, I thought I’d follow it up with his travelogue of “Abroad”. Will he convince me he’s an “Innocent” though?

The Blurb says ‘Who could read the programme for the excursion without longing to make one of the party?’

So Mark Twain acclaims his voyage from New York City to Europe and the Holy Land in June 1867. His adventures produced “The Innocents Abroad”, a book so funny and provocative it made him an international star for the rest of his life. He was making his first responses to the Old World – to Paris, Milan, Florence, Venice, Pompeii, Constantinople, Sebastopol, Balaklava, Damascus, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. For the first time he was seeing the great paintings and sculptures of the ‘Old Masters’. He responded with wonder and amazement, but also with exasperation, irritation, disbelief. Above all he displayed the great energy of his humour, more explosive for us now than for his beguiled contemporaries.

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Fiction

 

the amazing adventures of kavalier and klayPart of the Great American Novel Quest. I loved the writing of Telegraph Avenue but wasn’t so sure about its depth. How will this one stack up…?

The Blurb says Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist who has also been trained in the art of Houdini-esque escape, has just smuggled himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague and landed in New York City. His Brooklyn cousin Sammy Clay is looking for a partner to create heroes, stories, and art for the latest novelty to hit America – the comic book. Drawing on their own fears and dreams, Kavalier and Clay create the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth, inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who will become linked by powerful ties to both men. With exhilarating style and grace, Michael Chabon tells an unforgettable story about American romance and possibility.

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Crime

 

The Shut EyeCourtesy of NetGalley. Love Belinda Bauer, so every new one is a much anticipated treat…

The Blurb says Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here.

And now they are all his mother has left.

Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity. When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it.

Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…

But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable?

Or is he something far, far worse?

* * * * *

Sci-Fi Re-Read

 

do androids dream...In line with my resolution to read more sci-fi, I thought I’d ease into it with a re-read. My memories of this one are quite vague, but the blurb makes it sound much duller than I remember…

The Blurb says A final, apocalyptic, world war has killed millions, driving entire species into extinction and sending the majority of mankind off-planet. Those who remain venerate all remaining examples of life, and owning an animal of your own is both a symbol of status and a necessity. For those who can’t afford an authentic animal, companies build incredibly realistic simulacrae: horses, birds, cats, sheep . . . even humans.

 * * * * *

Audiobook

 

trigger warningCourtesy of Audible UK. Everyone says Neil Gaiman is great at narrating his own stuff, so we shall see. This collection includes some old stuff and some new – but most of it will be new to me…

The Blurb saysGlobal phenomenon and Sunday Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction, following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things, which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog”. In this new volume, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath.”

* * * * *

 

NB All blurbs taken from NetGalley or Goodreads.

So…what do you think? Do any of these tempt you?

The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer

Daddy’s gone a-huntin’…

😀 😀 😀 😀

the facts of life and deathLittle Ruby Trick lives with her parents in a broken-down cottage called The Retreat in the tiny village of Limeburn in Devon. With the forest encroaching on one side and the sea threatening on the other, Limeburn is not the idyllic English village of fiction. This is a rain-soaked, muddy place, barely putting up a fight any longer against the forces of nature that are slowly crushing it into extinction. And Ruby’s family is under as much threat as her home – with Daddy long out of work and no longer making much effort to do anything about it, while Mummy works full time and worries about money and Ruby’s welfare. Daddy’s much more fun, though – he’s a part-time cowboy in the local Gunslingers club and spoils plump little Ruby with Mars Bars and chips. So Ruby always takes Daddy’s side against Mummy and would do anything to keep his love. Including helping him hunt a serial killer…

By day, it was easy to forget that the trees and the ocean were lying in wait…But by night Ruby could feel the tides tugging at her belly, while the forest tested The Retreat, squealing against the glass and tapping on the tiles.

And she wondered what it would be like – when the outside finally broke in.

This book starts off slowly by introducing us to Ruby’s life. The descriptions of the village and its life are vivid and extremely topical given the amount of rain and flood damage the country has been suffering recently for real. And the constant threat of natural disaster combines with the isolation of the village to provide a nicely chilling backdrop for a story that suddenly darkens into something much more disturbing than the first few chapters might suggest. Because somewhere in this area of Devon, a man is beginning on a course of action that will eventually turn him into a serial killer; as the tagline says – every killer has to start somewhere. And this killer starts by abducting a young woman, then forcing her to phone her mother and tell her goodbye. As the attacks mount, John Trick and his fellow Gunslingers decide to hunt down the killer themselves, and Ruby gets the chance to join their ‘posse’…

Bauer has given us an original twist on the serial killer novel and writes with all her usual skill. The main adult characters are very well developed – we see them through Ruby’s eyes but Bauer manages to give us enough information so that our interpretation of their actions is different from hers. However I felt the structure of the book wasn’t as tight as Bauer’s plots have been in the past, meaning that most of the surprises were revealed well before the thriller-like ending.

Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer

Bauer has given us a child’s eye view in some of her earlier books, and is no less effective in this one in taking us into the mind of 10-year-old Ruby. But I must admit that I got fairly tired of all the Mummy/Daddy stuff as the book wore on, especially since Bauer mainly kept the language and sentence structure very much at the level of a fairly immature 10-year-old’s. It’s very well done and I admire the skill, but for my personal taste I don’t want to read vast swathes of over-simplified language and the half-understanding that a child’s viewpoint inevitably gives if it is to be convincing. I did also wonder if many of today’s 10-year-olds are quite as naïve as Ruby seems to be.

I feel I’m being hyper-critical of a book that overall I thought was very readable and enjoyed quite a lot. Bauer’s last book Rubbernecker was one of my favourites of last year and I suspect that’s making me judge this one more harshly than I should, because it didn’t quite live up to my perhaps too-high hopes for it. However, that still leaves it as a very good thriller with some novel twists, strong characterisation and a beautifully-evoked setting.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

TBR Thursday 14…

Episode 14

 

Woo-hoo! Dropped to 101 this week! This new iron self-control thing is finally working…but how long will it last? Depends on how many irresistible new books come out, I suppose. And here’s a few I’ve already got on pre-order…

The ‘must read on publication day if not before’ list:

Missing You

A new standalone by Harlan Coben is always a must. Not great literature, maybe, but usually great fun! Publication due 10th April 2014…

It’s a profile, like all the others on the online dating site. But as NYPD Detective Kat Donovan focuses on the accompanying picture, she feels her whole world explode, as emotions she’s ignored for decades come crashing down on her. Staring back at her is her ex-fiancé Jeff, the man who shattered her heart—and who she hasn’t seen in 18 years. Kat feels a spark, wondering if this might be the moment when past tragedies recede and a new world opens up to her.  But when she reaches out to the man in the profile, her reawakened hope quickly darkens into suspicion and then terror as an unspeakable conspiracy comes to light, in which monsters prey upon the most vulnerable.

*****

good working class stockOne for UK political nerds only, I feel…so should suit me just fine! Publication of this book has been delayed so many times, but hopefully the new date of 1st May 2014 will stick…

Dennis Skinner, the famed Beast of Bolsover, is adored by legions of supporters and respected as well as feared by admiring enemies. Fiery and forthright, with a prodigious recall, Skinner is one of the best-known politicians in Britain. He remains as passionate and committed to the causes he champions as on the first day he entered the House of Commons back in 1970. In an age of growing cynicism about politicians, the witty and astute Skinner is renowned as a brightly burning beacon of principle. He has watched Prime Ministers come and go—Heath, Wilson, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown—and yet remains uncorrupted by patronage and compromise.

*****

the facts of life and deathBelinda Bauer’s Rubbernecker was one of the best crime books of last year, so this one is eagerly anticipated. Publication due 27th March 2014.

Lone women terrorised and their helpless families forced to watch – in a sick game where only one player knows the rules. And when those rules change, the new game is Murder.

Living with her parents in the dank beach community of Limeburn, ten-year-old Ruby Trick has her own fears. Bullies on the school bus, the forest crowding her house into the sea, and the threat of divorce.

Helping her Daddy to catch the killer might be the key to keeping him close. As long as the killer doesn’t catch her first…

*****

gallowglassFerris’ last book Pilgrim Soul took the Douglas Brodie series to a whole new level – will he be able to maintain that standard? Post-war period Glasgow noir. Publication due 3rd April 2014…

A brief editorial describes the tragic death of their chief crime reporter Douglas Brodie and staunchly defends him against the unproven charge of murder. It’s a brave stance to take, given the weight of evidence. The case is watertight: the bullet comes from Brodie’s revolver, the banker’s wife denies knowing Brodie, and Brodie’s pockets are stuffed with ransom notes. Samantha Campbell deploys all her advocacy skills to no avail. It looks like her lover is for the long drop. But in an apparent act of desperation—or guilt—Brodie cheats justice by committing suicide in his prison cell. Is this the sordid end for a distinguished ex-copper, decorated soldier, and man of parts?(Bet it’s not!)

*****

All blurbs are taken from Goodreads.

Any of these appeal to you? What other soon-to-be-releaseds are you eagerly awaiting?

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Grisly, macabre and gloriously blackly funny…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

RubberneckerPatrick is a young man with a mission – to find out the meaning of death. And having Asperger’s Syndrome means that he takes his mission to extremes. When he signs up for a course in anatomy, his team is tasked with dissecting cadaver Number 19 to see if they can spot the cause of death. Meantime, elsewhere in the hospital, Sam is in a coma, but although he can’t wake up he can see and hear what’s going on around him and it’s not all good. But Sam is gradually coming back and is desperate to regain the ability to speak…

Grisly, macabre and in places gloriously blackly funny, this book is a compulsive read. It may be a cliché, but I really couldn’t put it down.

Belinda Bauer
Belinda Bauer
Bauer doesn’t hold back in describing the ghastly horrors of the dissecting room or the tragedies and cruelty of the coma ward but rather brilliantly manages to keep just enough lightness of tone to make these subjects not just bearable but weirdly enjoyable. The characterisation is excellent; Patrick, with all his misunderstandings of other people’s responses and vice versa, is particularly well drawn, a likeable and sympathetic hero whose sometimes outrageous actions somehow manage to make perfect sense. But the other characters are well developed too: Meg, a fellow student of Patrick’s, dragged into his mission despite her better judgement; Sam, the coma patient; Tracy, the nurse who’s trying to catch a man; and, not least, Patrick’s mother, driven nearly to distraction by her son’s odd behaviour. The plotting is good and more complex than it seems at first sight; it moves along at a fair pace and the author pulls all the threads satisfyingly together at the end.
Mortuary

Original, well written and gruesomely entertaining, this is a great read that I think takes Bauer to a new level – highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher via NetGalley.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link