Monday, March 14, 2011

Blacklands - Belinda Bauer review

Genre:                     Psychological thriller
Year:                       2010
Pages:                     224
Followed by:           Darkside (2011)
Publisher               Simon and Schuster

Description: (from Goodreads)

Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered—after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village. Only Billy’s mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.
But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle’s corpse, he’ll do it.
Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose.
Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration . . . Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.P."—William "Billy" Peters.
So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game.
Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the gravesite, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he’s receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too.. 


"Exmoor dripped with dirty bracken, rough, colorless grass, prickly gorse, and last year’s heather, so black it looked as if wet fire had swept across the landscape, taking the trees with it and leaving the moor cold and exposed to face the winter unprotected. Drizzle dissolved the close horizons and blurred heaven and earth into a grey cocoon around the only visible landmark – a twelve year old boy in slick black waterproof trousers but no hat, alone with a spade."  

‘Steven’s nan looked out of the window with a steady gaze. ‘She had started life as Gloria Manners.  Then she became Ron Peters’s wife.  After that, she was Lettie’s mum, then Lettie and Billy’s mum.  Then for a long time she was Poor Mrs Peters.  Now she was Steven’s nan.  But underneath she would always be Poor Mrs Peters; nothing could change that, not even her grandsons.’

 My thoughts:

       One of these days I went to the local Vancouver library and saw this book sitting on a shelf. The cover caught my attention.I picked it up and read the summary on the back cover and I decided this was something I had to read. It was a really good decision, because Blacklands is a truly captivating and interesting book. 

        I liked Belinda Bauer's writing style. In her debut novel, Bauer writes with a spare hand and a vivid sense of space. From the first lines we are pulled into Steven Lamb's dreary world. The eerie atmosphere of the moor is described so brilliantly and skillfully that it almost breathes on it's own. I found it really easy to imagine the setting of the story and it definitely made reading it very thrilling. Bauer's sharply observant eye makes Blacklands work very well.

       The author mentions that when she started writing this novel, she didn't have a criminal novel in mind. Instead she was trying to tell a story of a boy and his grandmother, and their complicated relationship. All the characters in this book are fantastically portrayed, each of them plays a big role. Most importantly, they're all very real, their suffering is something everyone could relate to.  Steven’s Nan – Billy’s mother – is forever scarred by the loss of her son (‘underneath she would always be Poor Mrs Peters' [p. 8]), which she refuses to accept. This has translated into a fractured household; Steven’s quest to find Billy is partly an attempt to patch up his family, but also his way of bringing purpose to a life beset by troubles at school as well as home.

       The story takes on a more sinister turn with the murderer's entrance. I appreciated that Bauer doesn't give any gruesome details on Avery's crimes. She opens enough of a window on to Avery’s mind to make our visits there deeply disturbing, but not so much that we lose sight of the monster he is. 

       I recommend this book to anyone who likes well written thrillers, offering genuine psychological insight and suspense. You won't be disappointed! 

My rating:


chidori said...

I´ve never heard about this book before, ale it sounds interesting. I think that my mum would be amazed, she loves books like this. I have to look around, if it was maybe published in my country, ´cause mum can´t read in english... too bad :/

Danah said...

The cover looks really creepy. I don't know, but reading the synopsis and looking at the cover made me think of Cryer's Cross so suddenly. Weird.. But anyway, thanks for the review and recommendation. I'll definitely add this to my to-read list.

Unknown said...

The cover is kinda creepy. Ive never heard of this book but it sounds like a good read!

Krystal Larson said...

I like mysteries and having to figure out a book. Books should make you think a little.

aurora M. said...

Not a book a have heard of nut really looks like a great read....i will BE GETTING THIS ONE. thanks FOR TURNING ME ON TO THIS ONE. BRAVO

Munnaza said...

I love mysterious, suspenseful books, and I definitely agree - the cover is certainly eye-catching. I love thrillers, so I'll definitely be checking this out. Thanks!

therainhouse said...

Part Jodi Picoult, part Jeffrey Archer I guess! Psychological thrillers/mysteries are such fun reads!

Jaime Lester said...

I really like the cover to this book. It is very simple, but that makes it even more eye catching. The story itself sounds fantastic. I am definitely going to try and find this one at my local library. I think I could really enjoy it. Thanks for your review!

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