Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett

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Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: Sometimes when you run away from something you run into something far more sinister. When Sean hides out he puts himself into considerable danger. Nail-bitingly good.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: January 2014
Publisher: Bantam
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0593073285

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It's more than six years since I read The Chemistry of Death and what I remember most about it is what I don't remember - I completely lost a day to reading the book. Since then Simon Beckett has written more books about Dr David Hunter but I was intrigued when I saw that he'd branched out with a standalone novel.

When we meet Sean it's obvious that he's on the run, but it will be a long time before we find out what from. He's driving, in France and he knows that he has to get rid of the car, but when he does so he finds himself in far worse difficulty. Cutting across farmland he puts his foot in a metal mantrap and can't free himself. The damage to his foot is considerable and he soon loses consciousness - but when he comes to he's in the hayloft at the farm, being looked after by the farmer's elder daughter. The farmer is definitely not pleased when he finds out, the younger daughter in a mantrap in her own right and there's a lot of animosity against the family in the local village.

It's a brilliant place for a man on the run to hide. The farmer values his privacy - well actually that's just a bit of an understatement - with dozens of mantraps in the surrounding fields and woodland and a tendency to use his rifle with little provocation, particularly when he's been at the wine from his vineyard. Mathilde, the elder daughter, has a baby son, but where is the father? Why is he never mentioned? Then there are the pigs and the veritable forest of stone statues...

Whilst Sean is trying to unravel what's happening around him we're drip-fed the details of what happened in London. It was a car that got him into this situation too when Chloe picked him up as he was hitchhiking. Before long they were living together: on the face of it the partnership worked well, but Sean was just a little too trusting and Chloe wasn't that stable. Before long he was on the fringes of a drug culture and a life that was alien to him - and it all spiralled out of control.

It's another book which you can't put down. Everything which happens is so plausible and so convincing: it seems to come to you very slowly, very steadily - in sympathy with the heat of a French afternoon and it's quite a while before you appreciate the sheer weight of all that's happened and is happening. The characters are brilliant. I believed in Sean - he's a bit of a drifter, but inherently decent and you want him to sort everything out and get back to, well, drifting if that's what he wants to do. Mathilde is compelling, hardened by events and determined to do what is right for her child - a glorious contrast with Gretchen, the younger daughter.

The climax is breath-taking. I quite simply didn't see it coming. At all. It's superb.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more crime in France you might like to have a look at The Devil's Cave: A Bruno Courreges Investigation by Martin Walker.

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