DARKSIDE – Belinda Bauer

Published by Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers) – 6th January 2011

Belinda Bauer blasted onto the crime fiction scene, after being a journalist and script writer, with her debut novel Blacklands – which deservedly won her great acclaim along with awards for the CWA Gold Dagger for best crime novel of 2010 and a TV Book Club Best Read for the same year.

Blacklands was also one of my personal favourites from this year, so I was delighted to get the opportunity to read her second novel in the same 12 month period – and you only have to wait a few more days to get to read DARKSIDE for yourself.

I was even more pleased to be invited to contribute a photograph of me reading the book to my terrified looking son (only pretending) and to add a comment to a proof copy that Ben Willis of Transworld passed between a merry pre-Christmas band of bloggers in advance of presenting it to Belinda Bauer as a birthday gift on Christmas Eve.  Only problem was, we only really had the book for a night each before it had to be carefully despatched to  brave the arctic weather to the next blogger in the chain, so little time to have a good read of it.

Ben came to the rescue with another copy for this review shortly afterwards as a Christmas gift – HUGE THANKS for that.

It was the perfect Christmas period murder mystery read, snow-filled and full of darkness, DARKSIDE is set in the same area as Blacklands and tells the tale of a young village cop, Jonas Holly and his sudden immersion in a murder case, his first, and then his sudden removal from the case when the brutish DCI Marvel moves in and Jonas starts to receive taunting messages about his work on the case.

It was nice to see that Bauer has woven some of the previous book’s characters into the story (set 4 years after the events in Blacklands), but not in any way that jars the reader (if they have read Blacklands) or that alienates any new readers.  My only concern to this is that continuing to do so in further books might damage the area she writes into becoming another Midsomer (where murder happens on a daily basis), but I think we’re in safe hands here.

It’s not all darkness, I particularly liked the character of Lucy, Jonas’ MS suffering wife, who loves her horror movies – and I loved the references within her scenes, particularly when she’s given a knife to protect herself and takes it with her upstairs to watch Scream !

The book contains moving and harrowing scenes, but without the need to resort to any gratuitous violence for the sake of violence.

The outcome, although I saw it coming a fair way into the novel, I still found very satisfying.

Based on the awards her first novel received, in my opinion this second novel deserves even more as, somewhat to my surprise, I felt was another step even higher up the ladder of great crime fiction.

Can’t wait to read the next one.

Keith B Walters

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