Review: FINDERS KEEPERS by Belinda Bauer

In the Exmoor village of Shipcott darkness is afoot. Sorry, that was the beginning of my review of Bauer’s previous novel, DARKSIDE. But it must be said that a review of this book could start in almost exactly the same way. With FINDERS KEEPERS Bauer doesn’t ask her readers to suspend disbelief so much as to send it away to a Soviet Gulag and never speak of it again. The third book to depict unspeakable things happening in the exact same speck of England, at least half of them to a single family, FINDERS KEEPERS proved to have an impossible premise for me to swallow.

Here someone is kidnapping children from vehicles while their parents or guardians are otherwise engaged, each time with a note left behind indicating that the child wasn’t loved. The ensuing investigation is something of a roller coaster for the police, a rule following bureaucrat with new hair plugs and his smarter, rule-breaking offsider, and the parents of the children who wonder if their children are alive or not as the weeks stretch out with few leads to follow.

There are flashes of Bauer’s excellent storytelling skills on show in the book and her writing, brilliantly observational and blessedly concise, is up to her usual high standards. The minutiae of village life, investigative procedure and the frustration for all involved in such a lengthy case devoid of evidence are well depicted, as are the coming of age elements of the story in which young love burgeons and siblings don’t always rub along well together. But overall for me the story does not hold up. As well as putting in peril the unluckiest 17 year old in fictiondom this book chooses to reveal the kidnapping culprit about half-way along which has something of a dampening effect on tension levels and turns it into a bit of a farce. In fact the whole second half of the book, after it is revealed what has become of the children and why, fails to ring true.

In the end it is a testament to Bauer’s skills as a writer that I didn’t stop reading the book all together once I started chuckling or eye rolling where I should have felt menace. Her observations about humanity are accurate and humour filled without being mercilessly sarcastic and so are a pleasure to read. But I think I’ll have to forego that pleasure if she continues to visit evil on the same tiny community in future books.

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I reviewed the first two of Bauer’s books BLACKLANDS and DARKSIDE

FINDERS KEEPERS has been reviewed at Euro Crime and Newton Review of Books (where the reviewer liked it more than I did)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
My rating 3/5
Narrator John Sackville
Publisher ISIS Audiobooks [2012]
Length 10 hours 9 minutes
Format audio (mp3)
Source I bought it

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5 Responses to Review: FINDERS KEEPERS by Belinda Bauer

  1. Bernadette – I couldn’t agree more about Bauer’s storytelling skills. Her depiction of life is so spot on! And yes, I am grateful too that she does so without requiring the chopping down of an entire forest of paper. Sorry this one didn’t ring true for you. I confess I’ve not gotten to this one in the reading list, but it’s good to know Bauer is still able to weave a story.


  2. Maxine says:

    Yes, she jumped the shark on this one! But it has good elements, as you point out. She really needs to do something fresh in terms of characters/themes in her next novel.


  3. Sarah says:

    I didn’t like Darkside at all and doubt I’ll read any more by this writer. But as you say she has good storytelling skills.


  4. Pingback: Books of the Months – October (& September) 2012 | Reactions to Reading

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