Chilling thriller

2011-02-23 00:00

BELINDA Bauer’s first novel, Blacklands­, won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger and with her second she returns to the same setting, in the remote villages of Exmoor, places where everybody knows their neighbours and those neighbours’ business.

The local policeman is there to help rather than to apprehend and it should all be idyllic.

But in the depths of snowy winter, an elderly, paralysed woman is found murdered in her bed. The urban CID come in to investigate and the abrasive DCI Marvel writes PC Jonas Holly­ off as a hick plod, and ignores any input or local knowledge he might have.

But it is Holly who finds the second victim, another elderly woman, this time an Alzheimer’s sufferer and someone he has known since childhood. Then the local old age home is targeted, with three more people being brutally killed.

It begins to look as if there is a killer on the loose who is after those who are a burden to their families and the wider society, but is not averse to taking out anyone who gets in the way as well.

Complicating matters is that Holly’s wife Lucy is suffering from multiple sclerosis, and sees herself as a burden, so much so that she has already tried to kill herself. Holly has to juggle his fears for her, his police duties and the resultant stress as the novel moves towards its horrific climax.

Bauer plays with the accepted conventions of the crime thriller here, going­ where most writers won’t. I must admit I had suspicions about the identity of the killer from quite an early stage, but they didn’t spoil my enjoyment of a chilling and powerful book.

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