The Beautiful Dead – Belinda Bauer – Audible Book Review by Pat V.
The Beautiful Dead starts with a chilling scene where a young secretary runs through her deserted office building trying to escape a stranger threatening her with a knife. Only feet away people are walking by on a busy London street but, hidden by the clouded glass of the windows, she is unable to attract their attention as she hears ominous footsteps get closer and closer. The visual quality of the writing and claustrophobic atmosphere that Bauer creates grips the reader from the start, and though there are moments when credulity is stretched, this is an engaging and suspenseful novel from an always interesting writer.
Bauer won the British Crime Writer’s Golden Dagger award in 2010 for her first novel, Blacklands, a dark tale where a paedophile serial killer continues to haunt the family of one of his young victims. Of her other novels, her fourth, Rubberneck, was awarded the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award in 2014. It tells of the struggles of a young medical student with Asperger’s Syndrome who believes that the body he is dissecting has been murdered, a fact that both his teachers and the police refuse to accept.
In her latest book we meet Eve Singer, a TV crime correspondent whose career is on the wane. Desperate to retain her position, she doesn’t shirk from pushing the boundaries of good taste in her reporting of crimes. When she is contacted by a killer who singles her out to write about his macabre public murders, which he advertises in advance, she sees this as an opportunity to regain her role of top reporter. Soon, however, she realises that she has been sucked into a situation over which she has no control and that she has put herself and those she loves in danger.
On first encounter, Eve is not a particularly sympathetic character. Exploiting the misery of those around her, she seems to have no limits in what she is prepared to write about in order to succeed as a reporter. However, when we find out more about her we realise that she is driven not so much by ambition as the need to provide financial security for her father who is slipping further and further into a state of dementia. Her need to protect her father forms the core of the novel and leads to the dramatic climax where she finds herself in a race against time to save his life.
As in all of her novels, Bauer’s focus here is on her characters and the relationships they form, at times, to the detriment of the plot. There are some elements in this book that are hard to take seriously: the convoluted motivation of the murderer and the over-the-top finale (literal and metaphorical!) in the Tate Modern Gallery being the most obvious. However, Bauer keeps our interest and while this may not be her best book it is better than a lot of the much-hyped crime fiction published in the last year.
The reader, Andrew Wincott, captures the tone of the individual characters and maintains the tension of the story throughout and his portrayal of Eve’s father, slipping in and out of dementia, is particularly effective.
All of Belinda Bauer’s books are available as audiobooks from audible.co.uk and The Beautiful Dead lasts 10h37