Reading Belinda Bauer thrillers when you're alone in the house is never a good idea. Reading her books when you're alone and supposed to be writing your own novel is a terrible idea. With the story dipping and diving between the surface tension of the plot and the depths of the characters, it is hard to come up for air.
Eve Singer is a TV reporter on the 'meat beat' as a crime correspondent. Although a fairly typical hack in terms of ruthlessness and cunning, her squeamishness and aplomb in the face of casual sexism from rival hacks give her instant appeal. Most sympathetic of all, her home life is almost as tragic as the news she covers day-in, day-out. When a serial killer bursts onto the scene - literally, he sees himself as an artist - Eve thinks she has a chance to make the big time. Until she realises that she might become the next item on the evening news.
The baroque nature of the killer, who bears a passing resemblance to whatsisname from Silence of the Lambs, is alluded to in the butterfly-strewn cover art. But that is perhaps the only over-familiar aspect of this elevated crime novel - Bauer rings unusual notes that lift The Beautiful Dead out of the realms of the ordinary; lashings of black humour, a sweet little romance, a touching father-daughter plot line, and a wonderful kick-ass female detective whose diminutive size belies her mad skills.
Fans of crime fiction will love The Beautiful Dead. Fans of a nicely-turned phrase will too.