The Beautiful Dead

by Belinda Bauer

In a world so densely populated by western literature, and even more so by American publishing, it is quite rare to come across British crime fiction. Rarer still is an author who derides her contemporaries for repeteadly describing morbid scenes as “hauntingly beautiful” within the body of her own work. Belinda Bauer lets us observe a slow “danse macabre”- in the most literal sense- between the protagonist who is a crime TV reporter and the killer. I refrain from using antagonist for he is seldom wavers from a cold-blooded killer. His art is the murder, the exhibition Eve’s TV coverage. The killer, a recipient of a heart transplant, is fixated by the notion that he is living on borrowed time, that the heart that sits within his chest cavity only comes alive when he buys time from Death by offering up another body. Meanwhile, Eve’s desire to face up against the cutthroat male competition in her field dictates that she often arrives at the scene first. Fuelled by the frenetic need to make ends meet to pay for her father’s caretaker (he lives with dementia), Eve tirelessly delivers a compelling coverage that sells in the media. The killer takes notice, and invites her to showcase his exhibition. The reader watches this show unfold from within the mind of the killer as he becomes enthused by her, proferring her life as his greatest exhibition yet, staged in the grand entrance of the Tate Modern. Does the artist complete his greatest signed work? Its worth finding out yourself. The message I took from this book is (i) no matter how brave, one often needs others by their side for the moments that truly matter and (ii) one cannot play Judge, Jury and Executioner unchecked. The book contains a balance of thrill, disturbing psychology and weighty artistic or poetic references; none as shocking as those in Dan Brown’s works or in the Silence of the Lambs, and delivers a casual disturbing read..

Zawadi Mwambeyu

Rating: 3 Worth reading