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The Bridge


The Bridge

Have the defibrillator nearby when you start THE BRIDGE. Stuart Prebble, author of the noteworthy novel THE INSECT FARM, doesn’t let the reader get too far at all into his sophomore effort before he presents an indescribably horrifying tableau in the form of a cover-your-eyes mass murder that is all the more terrible because it is very likely to happen anywhere that a few or more are gathered. Then, just when one thinks that things are quieting down and settling into a disturbing but relatively quiet British drawing room mystery, he does it again. And again. And that’s only one of the mysteries you will find in THE BRIDGE.

Michael Beaumont is a nice enough lad, a 20-year-old who works on audio for documentaries, news programs and the like. He knows little, if anything, about his birth parents, having been raised by his grandmother, Rose, after his mother deserted him. His life has changed somewhat as the book opens due to her age and declining health. Occasionally lucid, Rose still needs full-time care in a nursing home, though her mood is buoyed by Michael’s frequent visits.

"The Madman is an ingenious creation, and you will find yourself jumping at every scene that has the potential for his appearance."

The one recent bright spot in Michael’s life is his relationship with Alison. His happenstance meeting with her has blossomed, and while she has occasional spells of moodiness, she obviously returns the feelings he has for her. There are two elements of darkness on their horizon, however. One is that a mass killer who the press has dubbed “the Madman” has struck at places in proximity to Michael and Alison on two occasions. The other is that when he takes her to meet Rose, they are both surprised by Rose’s uncharacteristically hysterical reaction. The nursing home staff advises Michael that patients with dementia sometimes unexpectedly act in such fashion, but he is still perplexed.

Everything changes, however, when Michael is accused of being the Madman and is arrested for multiple murders. He cannot possibly be the killer, but the police case seems to be built on irrebuttable evidence. The truth regarding the actual identity of the Madman, and Michael’s innocence, is held by the two people closest to Michael, even though they are both unaware of it. Michael wants not only to free himself of the charges, but also to establish who the guilty party is, a pursuit that will lead to revelations that he never expected and that will endanger not only himself, but Alison too.

The appeal of THE BRIDGE lies not so much in the mysteries at its heart as the journey toward the solutions. The Madman is an ingenious creation, and you will find yourself jumping at every scene that has the potential for his appearance. As for the mysteries, while some elements are predictable in the early stages of the book, there are others that are surprising, to say the least, and make the interesting journey toward them worthwhile. Those who read and enjoyed THE INSECT FARM will find much to love here as well.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 31, 2017

The Bridge
by Stuart Prebble