Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review of Darkside by Belinda Bauer (Corgi, 2010)

An elderly woman paralysed from the neck down is murdered in her bed.  Local policeman, Jonas Holly, is horrified that someone could be killed in the small village of Shipcott, where he lives with his increasingly housebound wife, Lucy, a MS sufferer.  He’s even more mortified when the abrasive and abusive DCI Marvel turns up to investigate the case.  Marvel chastises Jonas for poor scene management and then punishes him by assigning him trivial tasks.  When Jonas receives a note suggesting he has failed in his duties, Jonas keeps it to himself.  Shortly after another body is discovered, floating in a stream.  Marvel has taken to drink and half the village seem to be suspects.  Jonas is torn between trying to protect his wife and finding the killer despite Marvel’s antics.  And the notes keep arriving.  With heavy snow cutting the village off, the race is on to catch a killer as the body count rises.

Darkside is a psychological police procedural and the second book in Exmoor trilogy.  The story has a lot going for it – nice character development, good sense of place, and a well constructed plot.  PC Jonas Holly is a local man who knows all the villagers and most of their secrets.  He’s opted out of an upwardly mobile career route to care for his wife who has developed MS.  DCI John Marvel is a bully that nobody likes, but gets results.  Lucy, Jonas’ wife, used to be a fit athlete before her illness and is unhappy at being dependent on others.  Bauer’s does a nice job of detailing how these three principle characters are impacted by the case and the evolving tense relationship between them.  She also captures the local landscape, the tight-knitted nature of the village, and its isolation and apprehension during a snow storm as locals become victims.  Darkside is whodunit, and Bauer keeps plenty of potential suspects in the frame, keeps ratcheting up the tension, and it’s not until the final pages that it all becomes clear in a near frantic denouement.  Oddly, though I had decided on the killer early on and despite plenty of hints and clues to misdirect my suspicions, which I took at a couple of points, my initial instinct proved right.  I think this was more of an intuitive guess on my part than any long distance telegraphing.  It was a little surprising that Marvel had not been reined in before and the snow storm conveniently cut off the village from reinforcements, but these were fairly minor plot devices that didn’t overly detract from the story.  Overall, an engaging and entertaining read.

1 comment:

Icewineanne said...

Sounds like a good one. Haven't read anything by her. I'll try the library to see if they have her 1st one. Thanks for the interesting review Rob!