So it’s now officially official. I love Belinda Bauer’s books, and there’s nothing you can do about it! I fell in love with Bauer’s writing when reading Snap (see review here), and have since also read Rubbernecker (my thoughts about that one here) and it is no surprise Blacklands was equally enjoyable.
Blacklands – Belinda Bauer
Published in 2010 by Corgi
Number of pages: 346
Paperback purchased from eBay
Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body.
Every day after school and at weekends, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven digs to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.
Only Steven’s nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her.
Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.
So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer.
In it’s simplicity Blacklands is outstanding. A young boy, who’s family has been ripped apart by an awful incident in the past, who so desperately wants to fix his broken family. Steven Lamb is a smart little man and a very lovable character, without him Blacklands wouldn’t be what it is.
Being her debut novel, it’s even more impressive that Bauer was awarded the CWA Gold Dagger for Crime Novel of the Year for it. And I can totally see why. The dark narrative sucks you in like quicksand and don’t let go until the very end.
4 out of 5 – you’ve been warned!