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The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer – a review

I was recently given a copy of this via netgalley and had saved it to read on a train journey to Birmingham. I was very glad I did, as I don’t think it is often that a book gets you thinking long after you finish it. Whilst there are plenty of books I read and thoroughly enjoy most of the time I’m just straight onto the next one. However this story really did pull me up at the end and the morning after I was still thinking about it.

The book starts with the disappearance of Daniel. His Dad worked in the garage over the road and Daniel had run out of the open door across to the garage before disappearing. All that remains is his footprints left behind in the wet concrete. His mother Amy spends her day sitting by these footprints polishing them and trying to protect them from the elements. DI Marvel wants to investigate the missing boy, but after having failed to find another missing girl called Evie he is instead assigned to a different case that he feels is rather beneath him. Amy rarely leaves the house but when she gets a flyer through her door advertising a local physic event (the shut eye of the title) she is so desperate she’ll grasp at any straw she can to find her son. The psychic Latham was previously involved in Evie’s disappearance and it is through him that the differing strands of the stories merge.

The Shut Eye is a very difficult book to review without giving away too much. There is an element of the mystic around it. Yet this is dealt with well and I didn’t get to the end feeling cheated which I usually do when a supernatural element is included.

The writing itself was seamless and I was utterly gripped from start to finish. The story is seen from not only the perspective of the detective but also Amy and Jack the parents of missing Daniel, as well as including the Chief’s wife and an insight into what happened to Evie. Throughout Shut Eye I felt in turn both sorry for and angry at the characters. The sense of isolation, and desperation that came through the pages made me really sorry for some at points, but just as forcefully their actions and stupidity made me want to strangle them.

One of the things that I felt made a refreshing change was that this (although I may be wrong of course) didn’t strike me as a book that was being written to start a series. Often and understandably people write books in order to have their detective at the forefront. However this felt like it was a completely stand along book being written because there was a great idea for a story rather than a great idea for a detective.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story and think that any book which is both thought provoking and enjoyable is definitely worth a read. It even made having to go to Birmingham a more pleasant experience.

 

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Blacklands by Belinda Bauer – a review

I ordered this book as part of my holiday kindle book buying bonanza. Belinda was one of the first authors to be announced as appearing at the festival. She was a new author for me and so I decided to start with her first novel, Blacklands. The story revolves around young boy Steven who lives with his Gran and Mum. His uncle Billy was murdered and the body was never found. It’s assumed that he was a victim of serial killer paedophile Avery who is now in prison. The book is based in Exmoor (drawing obvious comparisons with the Moors Murderers) Billy begins writing to Avery in the hope that he can get Avery to tell him where his uncle’s body is buried as he believes this will make his Gran happy.

I thought this was an excellent book. The story is told from two points of view. That of young Steven who spends his time digging holes in the hope of finding his uncle’s body, and killer Avery who enjoys the ‘cat and mouse’ game he starts playing with the young boy.

This was a really compelling read which dealt with a difficult subject. At times it was quite uncomfortable as it places you looking through the eyes of a serial killer, yet this is balanced by the naive viewpoint of a 12 year old child. The writing itself I thought was very good, and whilst at first it seemed a bit slow the descriptions set the scene very well and soon have you hooked. At one point I thought that there was a certain prison scene that was completely unrealistic but having got to the end and reading the authors notes, even that was actually based on a real event.

I would say its not a traditional ‘who dunnit’ type crime novel. You know who the killer is, and the victim may or may not already be buried on the moor. However the crimes it deals with are some of the most horrific in society. This novel seems to be a realistic portrayal of a family who years later are still trying to deal with the after affects of a murder. The idea of the Gran sitting for ages staring out the window waiting for her son to come home years after he went missing whilst her remaining family falls to pieces around her is very moving. Comparing this to the callous and unfeeling Avery, with his excitement at finding out that he is writing to a child really makes this book stand out.

This book was a real page turner, and dealt with an incredibly hard subject. However I felt it was done in a sympathetic manner and was an excellent read.

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