Belinda Bauer


" a surgical knife this novel gets right under your skin."


In a ward that looks after patients pulled in to the dangerous clutches of a coma for one reason or another, a patient who has partially woken from his coma sees what happens within the ward. One night he witnesses what he knows is a murder. But how can he tell anyone what he has seen? All he can do at the moment is grunt and make noises. His frustration grows as he begins to suspect that he may well be next in the killing spree.

Since the tragic accident that took his father, Patrick who has severe Asperger’s Syndrome has been trying to discover the secret to the ultimate question: where do people go when they die? On a mission to find the ‘door’ to Death, Patrick enrols to study anatomy at university in his bid to find out why his father was alive one moment and dead the next. What he could never have expected was that he would begin to discover clues that would lead him to a murder that would catapult him in his quest to find answers.

Without any finesse or social graces that would allow him with subtle guile to find clues from those around him who are possibly involved, Patrick storms in determined to find answers, realising too late that he has awoken a murderous streak in someone in close proximity.

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‘Rubbernecker’ is such an unusual novel and yet by its weirdness I was captivated and intrigued from the very beginning. You would think that you would switch off with a main protagonist like Patrick who suffers from Asperger’s, a child in a man’s body without any recognition towards social etiquette. Patrick says what he wants without realising there could be consequences. All he understands is the words in his book and the fascination that dead people hold over him as he tries to unravel the puzzle of life and death. However, with Bauer’s assured hand Patrick is enigmatic and it is a journey of discovery as you see Patrick begin to understand the world, and more importantly, himself. I wouldn’t say everything ends on a perfect note, but Patrick is more comfortable with himself by the end of the book. It is Bauer’s insistence that her characters are not mere ‘plot devices’ that means ‘Rubbernecker’ is populated with three dimensional people from all walks of life. One of my favourite of Bauer’s creations is Tracey Evans who could be classed as a ‘gold digger’, ‘a harlot’ who is only out for what she can get, but her plans come at a terrible price and you wonder if Tracey got her comeuppance or if she was as much a victim. It is these little conundrums of life that Bauer so richly describes and brings to the fore with sparse, yet precise prose that lift this book above the norm. As with the veins of her cadavers, the plotline of ‘Rubbernecker’ sinews its way in the book and even at the end Bauer is still not adverse to delivering yet another shock that I for one certainly did not see coming, however it did fit in the final piece of the jigsaw to make sense of the whole picture. With humour that could be caustic (I loved her description of Patrick’s disappointment about the human brain) and sometimes touching but normally downright cynical on human nature, Bauer delivers a first rate novel that thrills you, warms you and like a surgical knife this novel gets right under your skin. Sublime.

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