Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Dark Side - Belinda Bauer
I was fortunate to be sent a preview copy of Dark Side. I got it just before Christmas, aptly when it first began to snow, at the beginning of the long three weeks that it stayed around. But I didn’t read it as soon as I got it. Why? Because I loved Belinda Bauer’s first book, Blacklands, so much that I didn’t want to start Dark Side, devour it and finish it and have nothing left to look forward to. Ever do that with a book?
In Dark Side, a serial killer is stalking the fictional village of Shipcott. Jonas Holly, the local policeman, wants to solve the case but is scuppered when Detective Chief Inspector Marvel turns up and takes over (I could write a review entirely about DCI Marvel, his character was so…intriguing). But someone blames Jonas for everything. Someone wants to know why he isn’t doing his job properly. Yet all Jonas wants to do is look out for his wife.
As in Blacklands, the background becomes a character in its own rights. This is something I hope to achieve as I write about life on a notorious housing estate. In Dark Side, it was the snow. Just like the pace of this story, the sense of impending doom builds up with every snowflake, every centimetre, every extra inch, the icy and blizzard conditions.
I guessed who the killer was two thirds of the way through. Is this because I read and write crime thrillers or is this because Belinda set the book up like this? I’m not sure but I’d like to think the latter. Various other reviewers have said different than me – some guessed, some didn’t. But, for me, I enjoyed knowing who it was (and in a sense, enjoyed wondering if I was right). It didn’t spoil my enjoyment. It enhanced it. I wanted to know why. And Belinda told me why in the best way she could – through layers of suspense and spell binding twists and turns.
Belinda’s characterisation is amazing. Her characters are so real that I often feel they are sitting on the sofa next to me telling their tales aloud. By the end of the book, I felt like I knew something about everyone who lived in the village. However, the ending ensured that I didn’t…Again, as in Blacklands, there was one sentence towards the end of Dark Side that made me drop the book to my lap and my mouth gaped out. I wasn’t expecting that. But I also had another moment like this, right at the very end. Remarkable.
Dark Side is a fabulous book, an even better second novel. I mean, how do you top winning the CWA Gold Dagger Award with your debut novel? For me, Belinda has. The only thing I am disappointed about is that I now have to wait a full year before I can delve into her next book.
Many thanks to Transworld for my review copy.