Wednesday, 11 March 2015
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer
review by Maryom
On the morning of Bonfire Night four year old Daniel Buck disappeared, slipping out of an accidentally left-open door and down the street, leaving behind him a trail of footprints in new cement but then seemingly vanishing into thin air. Now four months later, his mother Anna guards those last reminders of him, cleaning and polishing them daily despite the odd looks and rude comments from passers-by, clinging on to her desperate hope that somehow, someday he'll come home. When she sees an advert for a local psychic, Richard Latham, Anna fees a burst of hope - this could be the way to find Daniel!
DCI John Marvel's favourite thing in the world is a good murder - a difficult, hard to solve one that allows him to pit his skills against a devious opponent. The case he'd like to be working on is that of twelve year old Edie Evans, who went missing over a year ago, and who Marvel believes must have been murdered - so he's less than pleased when he's asked to help find his super's wife's missing dog! He's even less pleased when the case brings him into contact with psychic Richard Latham ..... Marvel believes the man to be a fake, building false hope and exploiting the vulnerable, but what if he's the real thing, a shut eye, able to contact the dead, the missing and even an apricot poodle?
I know by now that when I settle down with a Belinda Bauer novel I'm in for a first-class, compelling read, full of excellent characterisation, unexpected twists and turns, dramatic reveals and a heart-stopping climax - and The Shut Eye is no exception!
What I love about Bauer's writing is her ability to create a whole range of believable characters and place them in unenviable situations. The 'crime' aspect of the novel pursues three seemingly unrelated cases - two missing children and a missing dog - but it also follows Anna and James Buck, a couple placed in a situation that none of us would ever want to share. James is haunted by guilt and would do anything to take back that simple slip-up he made; Anna is barely able to cope with anything any more, slowly sliding towards insanity, and only kept back from it by the daily ritual of cleaning her son's footprints. When she starts to sees visions, are they merely a further sign of insanity?
John Marvel, meanwhile, with his no nonsense, no sentiment attitude tramples through, a bit like a bloodhound on the trail, ignoring everyone's feelings while he pursues the crime.
And there's also the story of a young girl, Edie Evans, who wanted to go into space, to visit distant planets and meet aliens but had a sadly very different fate.
As in Rubbernecker, there's a similarity to Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie novels with the feeling of the random inter-connectedness of all things and that sometimes the world is weirder than we think. Maybe if you're a person who firmly believes that all psychics or mediums are charlatans, that there's no possibility of being contacted by the dead, then this isn't the book for you, but for everyone else this is an unmissable read. I'd just say that I was left at the end thinking that at some point (I shan't say when for fear of spoilers) a police investigation team hadn't done their work well enough and had missed something vital and blindingly obvious - I'm not sure if this was deliberate on the part of the author or not, but it didn't detract from the overall story.
Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Bantam Press
Genre - adult, thriller, crime
Maryom's reviews of previous Belinda Bauer crime novels; Rubbernecker, Darkside, Blacklands