I ordered this book as part of my holiday kindle book buying bonanza. Belinda was one of the first authors to be announced as appearing at the festival. She was a new author for me and so I decided to start with her first novel, Blacklands. The story revolves around young boy Steven who lives with his Gran and Mum. His uncle Billy was murdered and the body was never found. It’s assumed that he was a victim of serial killer paedophile Avery who is now in prison. The book is based in Exmoor (drawing obvious comparisons with the Moors Murderers) Billy begins writing to Avery in the hope that he can get Avery to tell him where his uncle’s body is buried as he believes this will make his Gran happy.
I thought this was an excellent book. The story is told from two points of view. That of young Steven who spends his time digging holes in the hope of finding his uncle’s body, and killer Avery who enjoys the ‘cat and mouse’ game he starts playing with the young boy.
This was a really compelling read which dealt with a difficult subject. At times it was quite uncomfortable as it places you looking through the eyes of a serial killer, yet this is balanced by the naive viewpoint of a 12 year old child. The writing itself I thought was very good, and whilst at first it seemed a bit slow the descriptions set the scene very well and soon have you hooked. At one point I thought that there was a certain prison scene that was completely unrealistic but having got to the end and reading the authors notes, even that was actually based on a real event.
I would say its not a traditional ‘who dunnit’ type crime novel. You know who the killer is, and the victim may or may not already be buried on the moor. However the crimes it deals with are some of the most horrific in society. This novel seems to be a realistic portrayal of a family who years later are still trying to deal with the after affects of a murder. The idea of the Gran sitting for ages staring out the window waiting for her son to come home years after he went missing whilst her remaining family falls to pieces around her is very moving. Comparing this to the callous and unfeeling Avery, with his excitement at finding out that he is writing to a child really makes this book stand out.
This book was a real page turner, and dealt with an incredibly hard subject. However I felt it was done in a sympathetic manner and was an excellent read.