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A Cry From The Dark Hardcover – Large Print, May 14, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Wheeler Publishing; 1 edition (May 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587246856
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587246852
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,698,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific British author Barnard (The Mistress of Alderley, etc.) offers a slow-to-start but strong-to-finish thriller set somewhat confusingly in both rural 1930s Australia and contemporary England. Eighty-year-old Bettina (once Betty) Whitelaw is an acclaimed London writer whose semi-autobiographical novels take place in the Outback settlement of Bundaroo, the desolate town she left behind forever after being raped in her teens one summer night by an unknown assailant. Occasionally endearing, but more often emotionally empty, Bettina now finds herself threatened by the distant past when the ransacking of her flat and an assault on her maid Katie suggest that vindictive former acquaintances, fearful of what she may be writing about them, have pursued her to England. An odd assortment of ex-friends and lovers, plus several family members, including her "unacknowledged daughter" Sylvia (the offspring of Bettina's brief marriage to a British army officer), arrive in London to create an intriguing collection of suspects in what soon becomes a murder case. With abrupt time and place transitions and obscure chapter titles, we are led through a complicated series of ever-more-suspenseful incidents that build to a semi-tragic, though largely predictable, finale that will play on the reader's emotions if not Bettina's.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A taut and elegantly pitched mystery from a master's hand. Well-respected London writer Bettina Whitelaw is a tough old lady in her eighties. Her story spirals from the present, where her agent and everyone else want to know if she is writing her memoirs, to the past, when, growing up in Bundaroo, Australia, she knew she was too smart to stay there. Why Bettina left Bundaroo sooner than she intended unfolds like an origami puzzle. Along the way, we meet her brother; the child she had but didn't raise, a woman now in her fifties; and Hughie, who came to Bundaroo and also left but remained close to Bettina (after a fashion) over the decades. There's real intelligence in the unfolding, which begins with a break-in at Bettina's flat and ends with a murder. Barnard has created a perfectly credible older woman who has been shaped but not crushed by the secrets in her life. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I own every book Robert Barnard has written, so I am a big fan. What I find interesting in his books is that you can always guess what he's been reading recently. For instance, this book reminds me of Atonement by Ian McEwen, in being about an elderly writer looking back on her adolescence, which includes a climactic rape. There is also the possibility that she, as a writer, has edited her version of the past as a protection for someone or atonement for something.

That said, this is not your standard Barnard mystery, with deliciously nasty characters and a real puzzler that only resolves in the last few lines. It's more of a character study--interesting, but not a page turner.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Bettina Whitelaw, the main character in Robert Barnard's new mystery, "A Cry from the Dark," is an eighty-year-old woman of means. She lives in an elegant section of London and she has made her mark as a respected writer. Bettina has not forgotten her roots, however. She is writing her memoirs based on her recollections of life as a young girl in the Australian outback town of Bundaroo in New South Wales, Australia.
Barnard alternates between events in the present and the past. Much of the book recounts Bettina's memories from her childhood in Bundaroo during the 1930's. She recalls her father's struggle to eke out a living in a wasteland beset with crop disease, drought, and extreme heat. She also remembers her unusual friendship with Hughie Naismyth, an English boy who comes to live in Bundaroo with his family. Hughie is artistic and a little condescending to his classmates, and he becomes the target of bullies. Since she is fond of Hughie, who is a brilliant boy, Bettina does everything in her power to defend and support him. This makes Bettina a target as well. Suddenly, a terrible act of violence impels Bettina to leave Bundaroo and start a new life elsewhere.
Sixty-five years later, another vicious attack disrupts Bettina's placid existence and she realizes that somebody may want her dead. But why? Do they want to get their hands on her considerable fortune and her valuable artwork? Or do they want to silence her before she reveals long buried secrets from her past?
Robert Barnard is most effective in the flashback scenes that take place during Bettina's childhood in Bundaroo. Barnard brings the town's inhabitants to life, showing not only how close-knit the residents were, but also depicting their clannishness, petty rivalries, and small-mindedness.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Robert Barnard weaves a careful tale encompassing a long life but focusing on only 2 significant parts of it. Starting off in present-day London we meet Bettina Whitelaw, a successful 80-year-old author who is beginning to write her memoirs or, as she prefers to think of them, her memories. Through her writings the narrative alternates between the present and 1938 and the small town of Bundaroo in outback Australia where Bettina grew up.
Bettina's life in Bundaroo is marked by a significant incident, something that is only hinted at early on in the story, but which is revisited each time she adds to her memoirs. It's that incident that remains the focus each time the story returns to 1938. More and more is hinted at, teasing us with what might have happened before it finally gets revealed and talked about openly. (I apologise for being coy, hiding behind the word 'incident', but it would be remiss of me to reveal what it is here).
This particular incident is the first of two mysteries to be dealt with in the book. The second occurs in the present-day London part of the story when Bettina realises that someone has been in her house and has been searching through her desk. She asks a friend to house sit for her while she takes a short holiday in Edinburgh and is devastated to hear that her house does get broken into and the friend is severely beaten. The question in this case for Bettina is, was her friend's bashing a case of mistaken identity? Is her safety now in danger?
The story's mysteries really become of secondary importance, however. In both the 1938 storyline and the present day one, two unusual relationships take place. In Bundaroo, Bettina befriends a newcomer to town.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Stefanie N on May 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Other reviews have admirably detailed the plot which oscillates between an Australian outback village of the 1930's and present-day London. The link between these two setting is the 80-year -old Bettina Whitelaw, now an eminent writer living in England, but originally from the backwater town of Bundaroo in Australia. Early on we know that something bad is going to happen (her friend Hughie expresses anxiety about the motives of Bettina's friends and associates. He suggests they are after her money.) We also know something bad did happen to Bettina in the past, a crime which bit by bit is revealed.
Neither revelation is meant to be particularly startling. There are enough hints leading up to each event, that it is apparent that surprise is not Barnard's intent. This would not necessarily be a bad thing if the characters and dialogue were compelling, but they are not. Bettina has a decidely unemotional sardonic personality which is pretty much matched by the visitor Sylvia who plays an important role in the former's life. All the educated characters speak in one way, all the uneducated macho characters speak in another equally predictable way. My other disatisfaction comes from the plot device gradually revealing an Event from the Past. It makes pleasure in the immediacy of reading subordinate to finding out what the Event is. This becomes especially irritating when the Event (a crime) and its perpetrator (named on the last couple pages) are entirely predictable. There are lots of mysteries out there. I would not waste my time with this one.
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