When you read a lot of thrillers like I do, reading that a book features a serial killer is almost to be expected. However, if you think THIS novel is just another serial killer novel, you would be sadly underestimating it. It was written by Belinda Bauer – therefore it is brilliant!
Eve Singer is twenty-nine years old and makes her living off of other’s people’s traumas. She is a television journalist working what her colleagues call the ‘meat beat’. Accidents and murders are standard fare, the bloodier the better. That’s what the viewers crave. She is ambitious, but at what cost?
As if her working life wasn’t enough to jade her perspective, her home life would do it for sure. She lives with her Dad who is in his mid-fifties and suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s. She has a carer to sit with him whilst she is at work, but evenings and weekends are all on her. It is an arduous, soul-wrenching, and thankless endeavor. He seldom knows who she is.
Because of her circumstances, Eve is a loner. She doesn’t want anyone to know just how dismal her life has become. Not even her work partner, her cameraman, knows the true extent of her misery and disheartenment. Three years his elder, she is quite fond of Joe, but won’t open herself up to him thinking she is too old and jaded for him.
Eve’s next door neighbour is an odd old duck. Mr. Elias is a widower who keeps his property and environs in a fastidious manner. He has always seemed disapproving to Eve – who imagines him to be a ‘dirty old man’. He is not. Lonely and misunderstood, he cleans the neighbourhood red phone box, making it the pride of the street. He made me think of ‘Norris Cole’ on Coronation Street. He will prove to be a valuable ally for Eve.
The story, which takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, goes back and forth from Eve’s point of view to that of the ‘killer’. He is a tragic and twisted figure to be sure. When he was just a child he had a serious surgery. Hearing a grown-up comment that he was living on ‘borrowed time‘, he took the comment literally. Now, in his perverse brain, he believes that by killing other people he will live longer. He anticipates the death of others believing that their time that is cut short will be added on to his time.
When Eve covers one of his crimes he notices her – and follows her home! Terrified, as only a woman alone on a street at night can be when she hears footsteps behind her, Eve does the unexpected. She turns around, confronts him, and asks him to walk her home. The killer is so taken aback that someone actually trusts him, he spares Eve’s life. Then he feels that they are connected in some way – that she understands his needs.
He makes Eve privy to his plans, the result of which she witnesses a grisly killing in a busy London underground station.
William Stafford Vandenberg lives alone in a mansion flat. Empty now because he has either sold or burned all of its contents. ‘Psycho‘-like, his mother lies in a bed upstairs. She has been dead for years… His crimes escalate. Each time he kills someone he gives advance warning in the form of a ‘flyer’. This fact is discovered by Eve, who gives the information to the police. When Eve’s life is threatened, the police supply her with a bodyguard. What a joke she thinks! Her ‘bodyguard’ is a five-foot tall, one hundred pound woman! But, Emily Aguda is a force to be reckoned with – as Eve soon finds out. The fact that people underestimate Emily Aguda is in fact her greatest strength.
The novel is fast paced throughout, but the final chapters whiz by as the tension ratchets up even more. When Eve’s father is threatened and abducted by Vandenberg, she tries to take back control of her life – to her peril.
I thoroughly enjoyed “The beautiful dead“. Bauer’s writing is of high caliber and her pacing and characterization is top notch. Highly recommended to all who love suspense fiction. If you think it is something you would enjoy, add it to your Goodreads TBR.
You can purchase “The beautiful dead” at the following retail book outlets:
Thanks to Grove Atlantic via NetGalley, who provided me with a digital copy of this novel in the understanding that I might write a review. Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She worked as a journalist and a screenwriter before finally writing a book to appease her nagging mother. With her debut, Blacklands, Belinda was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. She went on to win the CWA Dagger in the Library for her body of work in 2013. Her fourth novel Rubbernecker was voted 2014 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her books have been translated into 21 languages.