This is Belinda Bauer’s second novel, following on from the excellent debut, “Blacklands,” and featuring a familiar landscape – plus some characters we have met before. Jonas Holly is the village policeman in Shipcott, deep in the heart of Exmoor. Holly had longed for a more exciting police career, but has returned home after his beloved wife, Lucy, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, he spends his time taking home drunks and being involved in neighbourhood disputes, while Lucy sits on the sofa and watches horror movies.
It seems as though sleepy Shipcott is far removed from horror, but then somebody suffocates Margaret Priddy; bed ridden and paralysed. Detective Chief Inspector Marvel is brought in to investigate the crime and he certainly does not want the help of local boy, Jonas Holly. Yet, when Holly is side-lined, he begins to receive anonymous notes, suggesting that he is not doing enough to protect his local community. Ignored by Marvel, suspicious of those he has known all his life, and hating to leave Lucy alone with a killer on the loose, Jonas realises that he is involved – whether Marvel likes it or not.
I like Bauer’s writing and enjoyed her debut very much. In this novel, however, she is let down by some weak plotting and a lack of viable suspects. Normally I am unable to work out ‘who-dunnit’ and never really try to – in this book, it is unfortunately quite clear who the killer is fairly early in the storyline. You hope she will pull out a sudden, surprising plot twist, but it never comes... However, generally the novel is well written, with interesting characters, and a nice atmosphere. I will certainly read on – that second novel is notoriously difficult and I know she can do much better.