Source: Review copy
Publication: 21 January 2021 from Penguin Audio
Narrator: Tim McInnerny
Length: 9 hrs 42 minutes
ASIN : B083P71FXG
IT WAS NEVER SUPPOSED TO BE MURDER . . .
Pensioner Felix Pink is about to find out that it’s never too late . . . for life to go horribly wrong.
When Felix lets himself in to Number 3 Black Lane, he’s there to perform an act of charity: to keep a dying man company as he takes his final breath . . .
But just fifteen minutes later Felix is on the run from the police – after making the biggest mistake of his life.
Now his world is turned upside down as he must find out if he’s really to blame, or if something much more sinister is at play. All while staying one shaky step ahead of the law
Belinda Bauer’s Exit is a delightful listen. It is darkly comic, full of wonderful characters and the plotting is exquisite – every time you think you understand what is going on, Bauer wrong foots the reader and things turn out to be not at all what they seem.
The crux of the story centres on Felix Pink a 75 year old widower from Devon and member of a group who call themselves ‘the Exiteers’, a bunch of (largely) elderly people who, without actually breaking the law, act in support of those who are terminally ill and wish to end their own suffering.
We meet Felix as he is preparing to embark on an outing with a new recruit, Amanda, younger than most members, but whose own experience of a suffering relative has, she tells Felix, made her understand the importance of the Exiteers cause.
Together they arrive at No 3, Black Lane, the house of Charles Cann, an elderly man whose cancer has taken hold and who has contacted the Exiteers for their help in ensuring an orderly end to his suffering. They key is where it should be and they let themselves in. Felix knows this could be tough for Amanda so he is prepared for her to be upset. But when she breaks the cardinal rule to not actually help a patient Felix is determined that she should not be blamed. She will need to learn, but now is not the time. However, when it transpires that the wrong man has died, things are very much murkier indeed!
Felix is determined to shoulder the blame for what has happened and determines to hand himself over to the police. But wait! First he to make sure Mabel his dog is taken care of. So he hot foots it over the back fence and heads for home just as young pc Calvin Bridge arrives with his partner to investigate after an anonymous tip off.
Calvin is a lovely lad. He’s just finished a spell in plain clothes where his boss, DCI Kirsty King, thought he displayed talent and initiative. But Calvin harbours a terrible secret. He comes from a family whose criminal activities are well known in this neighbourhood and despite changing his name, Calvin knows that his connection to them could end his police career were it to become known. So he sits on his ambition and goes back to on the beat work without a murmur.
Belinda Bauer’s book has a light and quirky touch that belies its body count and controversial subject matter. It is a beautifully plotted and elegantly constructed novel that offers us two charming if slightly sad protagonists in Felix and Calvin both of whom are in search of the real answers as to what exactly is going on. Our joy as readers in following their paths as they converge and diverge again is in seeing how both find a renewed sense of self and a refreshing interest in the people around them.
Bauer’s book is full of wonderful characters and in this audiobook, beautifully narrated by Tim McInnerny. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the characters endearing and the hilarious sets of misunderstandings and fantastic plot points lead to a brilliantly funny murder mystery I think everyone will enjoy. Tim McInnerny cleverly reigns in the irony to give free range to a wonderfully oddball set of characters and his pitch perfect dialogue is a joy to listen to.
Verdict: A fantastic listen. This is a moving and often poignant novel that has real heart, a spritely humour and lots of really clever twists. It celebrates its characters in a way that makes you feel as if you know them. By the time you finish listening, you will both know and love them and that makes this a real wonder of a book and a great listen.
Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa and now lives in Wales. She worked as a journalist and a screenwriter before finally writing a book to appease her nagging mother. With her debut, Blacklands, Belinda was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year. She went on to win the CWA Dagger in the Library for her body of work in 2013. Her fourth novel Rubbernecker was voted 2014 Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Her books have been translated into 21 languages.