Finders Keepers by Belinda Bauer
|Finders Keepers by Belinda Bauer|
|Reviewer: Robin Leggett|
|Summary: The third of Belinda Bauer's excellent Exmoor-set crime books. Can be read as a stand alone, but far more satisfying to read them all in order - starting with Blacklands|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: January 2012|
|Publisher: Bantam Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Set in Exmoor, plucky little Jess Took is kidnapped from her father's vehicle while he is off managing the local hunt. Before you can say 'who took Took?' another little boy is plucked from his parents' car. In both scenes the only evidence is a post-it note saying 'you don't love her' or him. On the case is DI Reynolds who is initially more concerned with how his new hair transplant is taking until the crimes escalate to a full scale serial abduction case.
This is the third book of Bauer's to feature young Stephen and local bobby, Jonas Holly. Poor Stephen has already been through a lot in his life as readers of the first two books will be well aware. Technically, it is quite possible to read this book as a stand alone, but I wouldn't advise it and in particular I wouldn't advise the reading pattern that I adopted which, for the first quarter of the book in particular, left me mindful of school days where I'd skived a particularly important lesson only to find that the subsequent lesson referred back repeatedly to the one I'd missed. Let me explain. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Bauer's first book, Blacklands but somehow her second, Dark Side remains sitting on my Amazon 'wish list'. Stupidly, I jumped at the chance to read her latest and thereby missing out on the second adventure.
Thus, I acknowledge that my partial reservations about this book in comparison with Blacklands are at least in part my own fault. One of the things that makes Bauer's books so interesting and real is that her characters are affected by the traumatic events of their past. It's blissfully free of the ridiculous conceit in places like 'Midsummer' where the police seem to have no notion that their rural idyll boasts the highest crime rate in the world. No. Bauer's characters are damaged by events and in particular both Stephen and even more so, Jonas Holly who we are told here suffered hugely in the second novel in the series.
The downside to this is that to explain the mental state of Jonas in particular we have to get a lot of back story that I assume is in the second book. Almost exactly a quarter of the way through the book, DI Reynolds thought my own concerns when Bauer writes of him that 'It was the memory of his previous failure on Exmoor that haunted him as much as this new one unfolding'. Quite so. Once we get drawn into the present case, the book again soars into Bauer's darkly twisted mind. In particular there are a couple of short extracts told in the first person from the kidnapper that are suddenly thrown to the reader that are genuinely creepy. Although once we know who the kidnapper is, the circumstances are hardly less dark.
Bauer creates real suspense and provides a number of plausible characters, and while the events are horrific, she manages to make them hellishly real. I know some readers don't like crime novels where children are the victims, and if this sounds like you, then this is probably not the book for you. But for the rest of us, providing you are not as stupid as I am and don't read only books one and three, then I'd highly recommend this series. It's certainly worth starting at the beginning though because, while this does work as a stand alone book, it reveals a lot about what happened in the previous books and it would be a great shame to ruin the tension that her books generate by knowing some of the outcomes. And you are almost certainly going to want to read more of her works. She probably hasn't done much for the holiday trade in Exmoor though.
There are some genuinely bright stars in the crime writing firmament at the moment. Amongst the best are The Child Who by Simon Lelic which shares a location and sense of danger for children with Belinda Bauer's books and The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn. Both these are the latest books by these writers but any of their books are equally highly recommended.
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