Monday, 23 February 2015

The Facts of Life and Death by Belinda Bauer

The slightly clunky title is my only problem with this book by Bauer who is shaping up to be one of my favourite crime/thriller authors. The Facts of Life and Death has a huge amount going for it:

Engrossing plot told partly from the point of view of Bauer’s disturbed murderer. Check. Engaging child narrator who sees much but understands little. Check. Bumbling yet likeable young copper trying to impress smart, good-looking female DCI. Check. Atmospheric seaside town where the weather is unpredictable and adds to the unease of the events as they unfold. Check. A slow escalation of violence building towards a gripping and utterly exhausting ending. Double check.

Bauer is also one of the more original writers of the genre. Here she describes a criminal with a particular axe to grind which he takes out on his young female victims. The women he abducts are forced to phone their mothers who must then listen to their daughters’ terrifying deaths. Not nice.

And she’s really good with her characters, who have faults as well as good points, plus a talent for not noticing what’s going on under their very noses. This build up of what your English teacher might have called ‘dramatic irony’ makes for a particularly nail-biting read, and I found myself flicking towards the back of the book for reassurance - which wasn’t particularly forthcoming. This is one of those books where the pleasure of the ending is partly due to the relief you feel that it is all over. Which I guess is what the thriller genre is all about.

Posted by JAM

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