Billy Peters got lost eighteen years ago never to be found again. Everyone believed that he was kidnapped and murdered by Arnold Avery a serial killer of children. But, Billy’s body was never found. So, when Billy’s nephew 12 year old Steven Lamb decides to find uncle Billy’s body, and in the process bring peace and mend his broken family consisting of his mum, his nan and his brother Davey, he enlists the help of the same person accused of murdering Billy, Arnold Avery. Thus starts Blacklands by Belinda Bauer and we are gifted with an Award winning crime novel featuring a cat and mouse game between a young boy of 15, who wants to find his peace, and a murderer who wants this boy to fulfil his one last wish.
Once again i was faced with a book where the suspense of a crime was absent as the protagonist and the antagonist gets marked from the very first pages. But, then the phenomena of “If we know both the parties, then why is this book a suspense novel” sets in. I got hooked into the thought of,
“Okay, Steven is a kid of 15, and Arnold is in gaol. So there must be some point lying somewhere in the pages ahead that will drive this book into a high gear suspense novel”.
I was wrong, as no such revelations are made, but I was also right as Bauer made the whole part of the cat and mouse chase dangerous, and created an atmosphere where I, the reader started biting my nails, and felt that this is wrong, and wanted to shout out at Steven, as I knew that what he was doing would surely lead him to a trap. But then Steven did not know that and he went on his way searching for Uncle Billy, and the tension rose within me as I desperately wanted to know what happened? Did he succeed, or did he fail? There were no hidden secrets in the book, but the feeling of helplessness on part of the reader fills it with nail biting suspense.
Writing a credible crime novel, with a juvenile as its protagonist is one of the toughest aspect of crime writing. John hart did it in Last Child, Belinda Bauer does it in Blacklands. And what a character did she create. Steven lamb. A Liverpool fan, who belongs to a family broken by the death of a member which happened 18 years ago. His nan, and mother doesn’t love him, he gets bullied at school. Though these might seemed clichéd, but while reading the book, Steven and his life is sure to make the reader feel heartbroken and sad.
A must read for any crime fiction lover. A book which strays from the conventional norm of crime writing, yet delivers in a big way.