Belinda Bauer has stepped away from the locale of her first three thrillers, set in Shipcott on the atmospheric moors of Exmoor. Rubbernecker is a departure both in locality and tone, set in Cardiff and showing a bit of humor now and then.
Patrick is a young man with Aspergers. He is not as functional as he probably could be, especially with his people skills, having apparently received no help for his condition from anyone, including his apathetic and alcoholic mother. Patrick has been obsessed since he was a small boy by the death of his father, the patient and caring parent. He doesn’t really understand what killed his father, and above all he wants to understand things. So, he is enrolled in anatomy classes at Cardiff University.
Another character we follow at the beginning of the novel is Sam, a coma patient. Sam has begun to emerge from his coma but can’t speak. However, he first awakens just in time to see a man dressed like a doctor murder the man next to him. As Sam frantically tries to communicate, he begins to fear for his own life.
At first, we don’t know how these stories connect or even their relative time frames. We wonder if we should see anything sinister in Patrick’s obsessions.
The novel provides us a few glimpses of humor as Patrick tries to navigate the world of roommates and anatomy class teams and his peers try to understand him. The novel is well-written and involving, but I think I prefer the black aura overhanging Bauer’s earlier efforts. There is plenty of action going on in Rubbernecker, but it is lacking the atmosphere and absolute terror of the previous novels.