Five footprints are the only sign that Daniel Buck was ever here. And now they are all his mother has left.
Every day, Anna Buck guards the little prints in the cement. Polishing them to a shine. Keeping them safe. Spiralling towards insanity.
When a psychic offers hope, Anna grasps it. Who wouldn’t? Maybe he can tell her what happened to her son…
But is this man what he claims to be? Is he a visionary? A shut eye? Or a cruel fake, preying on the vulnerable? Or is he something far, far worse?
I’ve read two previous books by Belinda Bauer. The first was Blacklands, the first in the Exmoor trilogy, and I was attracted to it by its choice for the new TV Book Club on Channel 4 back in 2010. It honestly didn’t do a lot for me – a good enough story with a disturbing theme, but all the reviews made a big thing of the unbearable tension, and it was something I just didn’t feel. The second was Rubbernecker – you can read my full review here, but I agreed with almost everyone who read it that it was thoroughly excellent, real edge-of-the seat reading with some wonderfully drawn characters and such a clever structure. Picking up Belinda Bauer’s latest, The Shut Eye (published on 12th March), I wondered how it’d compare – the disappointment of Blacklands, or the enchantment of Rubbernecker…
To be honest, it went straight down the middle for me – I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t blow me away either. It was all just a little bit…well, odd.
There was lots I did like. At its centre is DCI John Marvel – such a well drawn character, a man who should be intensely dislikeable, but you can’t help but admire his tenacity in pursuing a result on cases others would have walked away from. Anna, whose two year old son Daniel disappeared, is heartbreaking – we watch her pain as she cleans the footprints on the garage forecourt, her vain hope when she encounters psychic Richard Latham with her gas meter money in her bag. There are other great characters too – the garage owner who has an unusual method of dealing with customer complaints, Marvel’s senior officer and his dog-obsessed wife, Marvel’s shadowy and long suffering girlfriend.
Some of the reviews I’ve seen suggest readers might be put off by the psychic content in this book – not at all for me actually, I rather liked it, something a little different. But there was a distinct something that put me off, and I’m finding it really difficult to put my finger on it. I think maybe it’s the dark humour – it’s there through the whole story, and sometimes jarred with me a little, a bit inappropriate and out-of-place. And I wasn’t entirely caught up in the story (although it had its moments…) – this was never a book I looked forward to picking up.
I think the fairest thing to say is that while I can appreciate the way she tells her stories through people, Belinda Bauer’s writing style really isn’t for me. But do give her a try – there are many five star reviews of this book, and I’m sure many of you won’t feel like I did.
The Shut Eye by Belinda Bauer was published by Bantam Press/Transworld on 12th March, and is available in hardcover and for kindle. The paperback will be published by Black Swan on 27th August. My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter and her script The Locker Room earned her the Carl Foreman/Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters. With her first novel, Blacklands, Belinda won the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. Her second and third novels, Darkside and Finders Keepers, were highly acclaimed, and she was shortlisted for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award 2012 for her entire body of work.
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