Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

RubberneckerRubbernecker by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In general this was an engaging read. It takes a while before you know where it’s going, but there’s a murder mystery waiting for you if you have the patience for it. The central character is Patrick, a Welsh lad with Asperger’s Syndrome, that is, autistic but supposedly high-functioning. He has a fascination with death and is driven to find out why his father died. We find him in a dissection room with a group of pre-med students. As expected, he’s the one to have the critical insight, although the average reader will have it figured out at least 50 pages before he does.

I suspect that most of the reviews and interest in this book will focus on the Asperger’s aspect. Frankly, I’m a bit tired of that syndrome. It’s become the affliction du jour for movies, books, TV, and even video games (The Big Short, The Bridge, The Rosie Project, Cole Phelps, among others). I’m afraid that with a severely autistic close relative, I don’t find it amusing. The portrayal of it in this book is wildly inaccurate. Even severely autistic (i.e. non-Asperger’s) people Patrick’s age have better social skills and awareness of others than Patrick and true Asperger’s sufferers are much better, i.e. more normal, than that. He’s an insensitive caricature at best. If you can set aside the insulting portrayal, the plot is interesting if far-fetched and the writing style is very readable. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Welsh countryside, although there wasn’t a great deal of that. I have more than a little Welsh blood in me, but I’ve never been there. I did have to look up a few Britishisms like Marmite and Vladivar. Another thing I liked about the book was the absence of violence, sadism, and excessive foul language, although be prepared for a good dose of gore in the dissection room.

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