Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (Book Review)


Steven Lamb has a mother, little brother, grandmother, and a need to find a dead body. Years before Steven was even born, a serial killer/rapist took the life of Steven's child-uncle Billy. Though Billy was never found, there was enough evidence to link a man named Arnold Avery to the crime; there were also remains of other children.
Steven's family has a divide in it. His grandmother still waits at the window for her son's return, his mother is easy to anger and hitting, and both women have sharp tongues and butting heads. Steven believes his family can be whole if he could just find his uncle Billy's body but, after three years, he is losing hope of ever finding him. So he decides to contact the one person sure to know where the body is... Arnold Avery.
(Some Spoilers Ahead. Skip paragraph to miss them.)
Arnold Avery and Steven exchange cryptic letters to bypass the censors and it gives Avery a sense of power and joy he hasn't felt since seeking his last victim. To Avery, it's a welcome improvement to pass the time until he finds out that SL, his pen-pal, is a child.

What I didn't like:

The story took too long to gain its momentum. I know suspense is about the slow build but this was so slow the first third of this novel was a test of my willpower to not put it down, unfinished. Some of the characters annoyed me and not the ones you would think. (Steven's mother through most of this is a prime example.)

What I did like:

The plot of this book was excellent even when the beginning wasn't. It had a very satisfying conclusion and during the climax I said, "Oh, my God." more than once out loud. When the pacing does pick up, it is a train with no brakes and no crossing signs.

Would I recommend this?:

Ultimately, yes. If you can get through the slower beginning and put up with a few character annoyances that are probably there to put you deeper into Steven's life, it is worth it. This is Belinda Bauer's first novel.

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