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January 1, 2010 / schulerbooks

Blacklands – by Belinda Bauer

Twelve-year-old Steven Lamb has a secret ritual. On days when he can spare the time, he goes out onto Exmoor with a shovel and digs holes, searching for treasure… of a sort. The kind of thing any imaginative kid might do with a free afternoon.

But in his case, the “treasure” he seeks is the remains of his long-lost uncle – presumed killed by a since-jailed child molester. If he can find that treasure, he could use it to buy back his splintered and unhappy family. Bring peace to his grandmother, who endlessly waits for her son to return. Bring relief to his sad and struggling mother. Bring an end to the quiet pain in his house.

But Exmoor is large, and Steven is small. So he strikes on an idea: why not find a way to ask the murderer where he hid the body? Thus begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse correspondence between a young boy and an evil, cunning man – one in which both participants are playing a whispery and dishonest game with one another.

A game that turns deadly the moment the child killer realizes he’s conversing with a possible target…

Blacklands is a quiet shocker of a thriller; a masterful exploration of obsession — both malevolent and innocent — and a bittersweet portrayal of a child’s naive hopes and dreams, and the way in which the world’s weight can crush and yet reward them. Belinda Bauer has delivered a stunningly clever first novel, full of thrills and sparkling, dark humor. Fans of English thrillers should scoop this one up to savor as soon as possible.

Blacklands is out now in hardback, and in stock.

– Jim Tremlett, Eastwood

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