Wow. What a complex, crazy, fascinating, jaw-dropping novel.
Rubbernecker is not only a well-written book, but it's a fantastic achievement. The narrative contortions that Bauer goes through with this book are labyrinthine. Quite often, writers' tricks like this just come off as "show-offy" at best, and convoluted and painful at worst. But not with Rubbernecker; the unusual structure but not only works, but serves to build the suspense as the story unfolds.
First, the unusual narrative: Rubbernecker is told from three points of view, and in different time frames, and with three different unreliable narrators. Then everything crashes together about two-thirds of the way through, then races toward the climax—I couldn't turn pages fast enough. Quite often, I detest these types of seemingly detached stories coming together, because they're usually done poorly (just find my online reviews for the 1994 Robert Altman movie Short Cuts or the 1999 Paul Thomas Anderson movie Magnolia). But Bauer weaves the threads masterfully.
The main character is Patrick, an eighteen-year-old on the autism spectrum who's fascinated by death. He takes an anatomy class at university, his first time away from his mother, who's too broken to care for him properly.
It's also partially narrated by a man in a coma, and the story additionally follows a mean-spirited but beautiful nurse who works in the facility where the man lies. Revealing any more about the plot would venture into spoiler territory.
I'm not familiar enough with the ins and outs of autism to know how good of a job Bauer did with Patrick's believability, but it did fit in with the little I do know. I believed everything about Patrick—his actions, his interactions with other people, and his motivations.
Ultimately, this is a murder mystery, and Patrick makes a compelling amateur sleuth. I started suspecting the killer about halfway through the book, although the reveals of the murders are both slow burns—this isn't a book where you see the murder being committed in the prologue or first chapter. The solving of the murder isn't the ultimate reveal, either, and while some jaded readers may find the ending a bit on the maudlin side, others will find it quite satisfying. I certainly did.
You're going to want to buy this book and find several hours of uncluttered time—because you won't be able to put it down once you start. It hooked me from the first page.
—Paul Austin Ardoin