by Belinda Bauer
Children have a special place in author Belinda Bauer’s novels.
Jack Bright, 11, in SNAP, survives the murder of his mother and sees justice done when the police fail.
In BLACKLANDS, 12-year-old Steven Lamb writes to an imprisoned pedophile and serial killer who murdered his uncle.
In THE FACTS OF LIFE AND DEATH, 10-year-old Ruby Trick is living with an out-of-work father in an isolated community with a serial killer in its midst.
In this book, two adults — Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) John Marvel and bereft mother Anna Buck — are obsessed with missing children.
DCI Marvel, a man who “could see the bad in anyone,” can’t let go of the disappearance of Edie Evans, who set off on her bike to school one January morning and never arrived. The bike, bent and buckled, is found hidden under a bush with nearby drops of blood that prove to be Edie’s.
Ann Buck carefully cleans and polishes five tiny footprints left in the concrete forecourt of the auto repair garage next door every morning. The footprints are the only thing left of her four-year-old son Daniel, who escaped their apartment through an unclosed door one fall morning and disappeared.
Both are desperate enough to consult a psychic. In Marvel’s case, it was a staff member who reached out to the psychic. In Anna’s case, it’s a desperate response to an advertising flyer in the day’s junk mail.
The psychic gives the police vague information that doesn’t help find Edie. He flatly refuses to help Anna Buck. But Anna begins to have odd symptoms and visions that she takes to the local police station — DCI Marvel’s office to be precise.
Bauer creates wonderful characters in seemingly impossible situations. She’s taken a small slice of a south London neighborhood and populated it with fascinating people. She manages to pair the curmudgeonly rational Marvel with the seemingly mad Anna in a partnership that brings this story to a credible and haunting conclusion.