Author: Belinda Bauer
Book procurement: Bought at Books Galore Greenstone
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.
Although his is far more dangerous …
Blacklands “is a taut and chillingly brilliant debut that signals the arrival of a bright new voice in psychological suspense.”
I picked up Blacklands at a sale, the premise of a killer communicating with a boy in search of a victim’s body was far more intriguing than anything else on sale. It was portrayed as a “dangerous cat-and-mouse game” between the two, which in my opinion fell flat on its face. It was a short book (245 pages) with pictures of the correspondence happening between the two which worked fairly well. But it was short. The “cat-and-mouse” game could have had so much more intrigue and drama.
The book itself was enjoyable, and a few times I (especially a third in) I had to stop and think about why in the world would this boy do such a thing. Ok, he’s twelve so I’ll forgive his childish mistakes but when you are corresponding with a child killer, and you’re a child… you don’t do or say certain things. Gah! So, on that note, Blacklands threw me right into the quiet English village and it’s slow lifestyle. I was drawn into Steven’s world and his woes as a child in a broken family. It was really well written.
If only it was longer, and the back and forth between the two had more action in it, would have pushed the rating to four.
Rating: A settled 3 out of 5