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Magwood on Books

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Reviewed: Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer, Bantam Press

RubberneckerI have been hooked on Bauer’s quiet thrillers since her brilliant début Blacklands. Tense and intricately plotted, she eschews the increasingly desperate sadism and forensic pyrotechnics in so many crime novels, keeping the gore to a minimum and ramping up the psychological intrigue.

Central to the story is the character of Patrick Fort, an 18-year-old Asperger’s sufferer. Brilliant, awkward and solitary, he has managed to be admitted to university to study anatomy. Since his father’s death in a hit-and-run accident when he was young, Patrick has been obsessed by the mechanics of dying. Working on his cadaver in the laboratory, he becomes convinced that the man’s death was no accident. No one else believes him, but he doggedly pursues his investigation. With his child-like frankness and curiosity, he is a refreshing protagonist.

Twined around this story are several others: the accident victim lying in a coma in a ward nearby, seemingly dead to the world but far from it; the repellent ambitions of a bimbo nurse; the broken life of Patrick’s friend Lexi.

As Bauer plays out the narrative, the stories come together beautifully and Patrick is finally able to understand why his father died. The great Val McDermid hails Bauer as “The most disturbing new talent around.”

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