Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Book Review: THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD by Belinda Bauer

The Beautiful Dead

Title: The Beautiful Dead
Author: Belinda Bauer
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Read: September 2016
Expected publication: 3 January 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads):

Eve Singer needs death. With her career as a TV crime reporter flagging, she’ll do anything to satisfy her ghoulish audience.

The killer needs death too. He even advertises his macabre public performances, where he hopes to show the whole world the beauty of dying.

When he contacts Eve, she welcomes the chance to be first with the news from every gory scene. Until she realizes that the killer has two obsessions.

One is public murder.

And the other one is her . . .

My thoughts:

Eve is a young reporter trying to survive in the cut-throat business of modern crime journalism – to produce the most gripping headline, the most heart-rending interviews and the most gruesome photos of death and loss before her competitors beat her to it. First on scene to the brutal homicide of a young woman in an empty office building, Eve gets her headline and the pictures she needs, but also attracts the attention of the killer, who sees her as a kindred spirit in the “death business” and as a way to publicize his shocking crimes. As a carer for her father, who suffers from early onset dementia, Eve initially uses the information she receives from the killer to be first on scene after every murder and deliver the goods that keep her in her job and guarantee her income. Until she realises that she may unwittingly have become an accomplice in the murders by gratifying the killer’s craving for publicity. But will refusing to publish her photos of the killer’s work ultimately make her a target herself?

Bauer has a flair for the macabre and the bizarre and for making even the most innocent scenes chilling. One particular incident  stood out for me, involving an encounter between our protagonist Eve and the killer, which set the scene for the inevitable tragedies to follow. It painted such a vivid picture that it raised the hair on the back of my neck and stayed with me long after I finished reading the book. Very well done! Another skill I love and admire in Bauer’s books is the art of making even the worst of her characters human in a way that a faint spark of empathy will smoulder in the reader’s heart, despite the despicable acts they commit and the overall flawed human being they are. It creates a kind of conundrum, tossing the reader into waves of conflicting emotions and hope against all reason that something could change for the better. I also like that nothing in Bauer’s novels is truly black and white. Our protagonist Eve makes money from exploiting death and loss – despite this one cannot but like her and hope for her safety throughout the story. The killer himself, with his sadistic need to inflict pain and suffering, has a background so sad that I struggled not to feel sorry for him. Bauer has added her usual deft seasoning of irony and dark humour in most of the scenes, making this an extremely readable, clever and enjoyable story. I loved the little twist at the end, which was a prime example of Bauer’s ability to capture life’s absurd moments and use them for creating a clever, unusual story.

All in all, The Beautiful Dead captivated me from the very first page and I was loathe to put it down. A great read, very much recommended.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Image result for 4.5 stars

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