Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

“Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb digs holes on Exmoor, hoping to find a body. Every day after school, while his classmates swap football stickers, Steven goes digging to lay to rest the ghost of the uncle he never knew, who disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery.

Only Steven’s Nan is not convinced her son is dead. She still waits for him to come home, standing bitter guard at the front window while her family fragments around her. Steven is determined to heal the widening cracks between them before it’s too late. And if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son, he’ll do it.

So the boy takes the next logical step, carefully crafting a letter to Arnold Avery in prison. And there begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game between a desperate child and a bored serial killer . . .”

This isn’t my first Belinda Bauer novel.  I read ‘Rubbernecker’ a while ago and whilst I did enjoy it, I couldn’t quite understand the hype (saying that, I tend to enjoy hyped up books but can’t quite understand why they are so hyped up…maybe it’s just me!!).  However I think this, Belinda’s first novel, is head and shoulders above Rubbernecker.

It’s dark.  It’s a game of cat and mouse where all you want the mouse to do is put down his blinking pen, run and hide!  All Steven wants to do (in a beautifully selfless grown up way) is make his Nan happy so he comes up with a plan to change everything.  Unfortunately that plan involves a serial killer….of children.

The book is set on Exmoor with a little bit of Dartmoor thrown in for good measure (why have one moor when you can have two?!).  Beautifully written and very atmospheric.  Arnold Avery is the epitome of evil.  Enjoyable read and recommended.

Four out of five stars.




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