“Rubbernecker” by Belinda Bauer – a crime novel with a very unusual main character

Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer is a crime novel where you are not sure for most of the book that there is a crime. The main character, Patrick, has Asperger’s Syndrome and a lot of the book is told from his point of view. The author has, I assume, done her research and what happens is very much driven by the fact that Patrick is autistic. I can think of a couple of books I have previously read with similar main characters – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close both of which had child protagonists but neither of which I particularly enjoyed. All three books seemed to centre on death.

I enjoyed this book. I liked the fact that the author followed several different characters, each of whom was living a slightly different story. It wasn’t until near the end that the different strands came together and the author did it so well that it seemed very obvious.

Patrick is studying anatomy because he wants to understand why his father died and what happened to him after he had died. Sarah is his mother who finds her role as a single parent to Patrick extremely difficult. Patrick is dissecting a body as part of his studies and becomes convinced that the man concerned has been murdered but he finds it difficult to get anyone to listen to him.

Some of the book takes place on a ward for coma victims and follows one man who is slowly coming out of his coma but doesn’t know what is happening and who people are. We also follow several nurses on the ward who do a thankless task – some better than others.

This book is not really gory but there is quite a bit about body parts and dissection in it which might affect the squeamish. The plot unrolls at a slow pace to start with and then the last quarter of the book is full of revelations and actions. Some storylines are less resolved than others but the book ends quite satisfactorily with an air of hope that Patrick will find his place in a world that for him is often confusing and illogical.

This is an interesting crime novel and well worth reading for its unusual hero and the quiet humour which underlies much of Patrick’s interaction with others.

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