Blacklands – Belinda Bauer

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Blacklands was the second selection for the TV Book Club. I couldn’t decide whether to read it or not, but although the rest of the show was poor, the short discussion they had on the book actually persuaded me to check a copy out of the library.

Blacklands is set in Exmoor and centres on Steven, a twelve-year-old boy whose uncle  was murdered 18 years ago. He is trying to find the body, so that his Grandmother can finally have some closure. After a fruitless search Steven decides to write to his uncle’s killer in the hope he will reveal the location of the body.

Blacklands is a very quick and easy read – I completed the whole book in one sitting, proof of how gripping I found it. Unfortunately I found the book too light for me and I was left feeling slightly disappointed.

Lots of interesting issues were introduced, including how a tragedy can continue affecting a family many years after its occurrence, but I felt that these issues were not investigated properly. The real heartbreak was skimmed over, producing a fast paced book, with no emotional depth.

Steven’s character was well drawn and I found the child’s perspective to be realistic and touching, but his letters to the serial killer went beyond reality. I struggled to believe that any correspondence between a murderer and child would be allowed and the cryptic replies were just too convenient.

I don’t think I’ll remember much about it in a few years time, but it entertained me for a few hours. Despite these criticisms it is a good page turner and is ideal for anyone who enjoys lighter crime novels.

 

Did you enjoy Blacklands?

Did you think the letters were realistic/would ever be allowed?


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21 Comments

  1. Beth F says:

    I’m not sure that this is a book for me, the premise sems only mildly interesting.

    I’m not sure I’d buy the correspondence between the kid and the killer. I don’t know much about British law, but in the States, I’m sure the letters would be allowed — I don’t think there is anything illegal about the contact. But if I were that kid’s parent, I don’t think I’d be too happy about the contact and would likely put a stop to it. But I haven’t read the book, so I can’t really make judgments.

    1. Jackie says:

      Beth, I’m not sure of the law in this country, but it can’t be right for paedophiles to be allowed to write letters to children – especially the relations of victims?

  2. Stephanie says:

    I’m not sure whether I’d like this book. I have a hard time remembering details of all the books I’ve read, but the worst is not being able to remember anything about a book, or whether or not I’ve even read it, and it sounds like that could be a rpoblem with this one.

    1. Jackie says:

      Stephanie, I don’t mind if I don’t remember much about a book, as long as I enjoy it at the time. It just means that it isn’t especially powerful or thought – provoking.

  3. diane says:

    I liked this book a lot, but agree that the whole correspondence issue would not happen in real life. It’s fiction though, so I just enjoyed the the fact the story sucked me in from the beginning and held my interest until the end. (For me I need books like this from time to time — with few characters and a catchy story).

    1. Jackie says:

      diane, I didn’t mind that they wrote letters to each other so much, but thought that if the two did correspond with each other then they wouldn’t have written letters like that – it just didn’t seem very realistic. The fact they worked out each other’s code so easily also annoyed me, but I guess I’m just after perfection in books and can be a bit too fussy at times!

  4. Sandy says:

    Light crime novels just annoy me, because there are so darned many of them! I like my protagonists dark and disturbed, and my plots twisted and unpredictable!

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Light crime novels have there place – this was the perfect book to read on a busy train. I much prefer to have a quiet place to read a more complex crime novel though.

  5. Kathleen says:

    Oh my goodness, I don’t think I can bear to read a book where a child is allowed to correspond with a serial killer!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kathleen, It isn’t as bad as it sounds, but I agree – it isn’t a premise that jumps out as something fun to read about.

  6. Simon S says:

    I find it hard to believe a book like this wouldnt haunt you for a good long while I think it will me, in fact it still is and I read it a good few weeks ago.

    1. Simon S says:

      I also am amazed you can call it a light read, quickish and unputdownable yes, but a book about a paedophile light? I am wondering if we read the same book.

      1. Jackie says:

        Simon, I think that we are using different definitions of the word light. I don’t mean light, as in opposite to dark, but light as in not heavy.

        The themes of paedophilia are dark, but I didn’t find the writing oppresive. The speed of reading and the lack of detail meant that I didn’t have time to build up an emotional attachment to the characters and so while the events I was reading about were disturbing I wasn’t personally moved by them.

        It is interesting that we all get different things from the same book. I think you are much better at filling in the gaps than me – Dangerous Liasions was a good example of how some people enjoy books without any descriptions, but I need that atmosphere and imagery to really enjoy a book.

  7. Weird that this turned out to be a light read with a premise like that!

    1. Jackie says:

      J.T, See the comment I left for Simon!

  8. Jenny says:

    What a silly premise – I mean I hate to say it’s a silly premise when it’s so dark, but it would take an author being extraordinarily convincing to get me past that premise. Sad but not surprised it fell short.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenny, I’m not sure I’d go as far as to say it was silly, but it proves the effectiveness of the TV book club in persuading me read a book that didn’t initially grab me!

  9. Dorte H says:

    I have seen several conflicting reviews of this book so I must admit it has made me very curious.

    Well, at least there is no need to buy it until it is cheaper ;)

    1. Jackie says:

      Dorte, I find that conflicting reviews often make things more intriguing too! I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.

  10. LizF says:

    I know what you mean about Blacklands. I read it last week and would probably have read it at a sitting if I hadn’t been stupidly busy because I did find it gripping although it was far from perfect.
    As a former court and crime reporter for local and regional newspapers the whole exchange of letters struck me as so unlikely as to be almost impossible especially as it was fairly clear that Steven’s letter was from a child.
    Having said that, I thought there was a lot of promise in the book and really liked and sympathised with Steven as a character so I would probably read another book by Belinda Bauer.

    1. Jackie says:

      Liz, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time!

      I’m pleased that as someone with knowledge in the area you agree that the letters wouldn’t be allowed.

      I think I might read another book by Belinda Bauer – especially if I needed something light to read if I was somewhere with a lot of distractions. I’m sure she’ll have a successful writing career.

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