Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Steven Lamb is a twelve-year old boy much like any other.  Except that he is a twelve-year old boy whose family is forever known as the one whose child eighteen years ago was kidnapped by a serial killer.  That child was Steven's uncle.  He never knew him, but for his entire life his entire family dynamic has revolved around this stark fact.  His mother, the child's sister, has drifted from man to man, never trusting anyone.  His grandmother still spends hours at the window, waiting for Billy to return.  His body was never found, and she still holds out hope.

Casting around for a way to heal his family, Steven naively starts a secret correspondence with his uncle's purported killer.  Arnold Avery has been in prison for years, six child killings to his tally with others like Billy suspected.  Arnold knows that he is unlikely to ever leave prison, and his days are mindnumbingly routine.  There aren't many visitors to a pedophile killer.  When the correspondence starts, he suddenly has purpose again; he wants to get out somehow and find Steven.  Steven, who believes he can trick Avery into revealing Billy's gravesite on the nearby moor, has no idea what he has touched off.

The action accelerates when Avery manages to escape prison during a riot.  He heads straight to Steven's village.  He knows when he is recaptured he will never leave prison again, and is determined to have one last kill; one that will revisit his power on this family as he takes another child from them.

Readers are advised to have plenty of lights on to read this book.  Arnold Avery is one of the most chilling killers in recent memory, and the views inside his head won't soon be forgotten.  Belinda Bauer has created memorable characters who ring true.  Both Steven's and Avery's characters' actions are as believable as they seem inevitable.  This book is recommended for mystery and suspense readers.  They will, as I have, find a new star in suspense writing.

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