A chilling psychological debut, Blacklands introduces an extraordinary new author reminiscent of the best of Minette Walters and Barbara Vine.
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 astonishingly assured debut... for once lives up to the hype... genuinely chilling... a psychological tour-de-force about the cruelty of hope and, ultimately, the triumph of innocence”
“An excellent first novel, with a highly original plot and convincingly clammy atmosphere . . . Belinda Bauer paces the rising tension with great skill and a confidence rarely exhibited by first-timers. She's a real find”
“[Bauer's] portrait of the psychopath chills the blood. The reader is fully gripped... Bauer's first novel shows an extraordinary power of imagination and, vital in crime fiction, the ability to create fear and empathy in the reader”
“In this atmospheric debut, Bauer ably paints a convincingly chilling portrait of a child killer, but it is her moving portrayal of a lonely, bullied child with a comfortless life that singles her out as an accomplished writer”
“Original, unsettling and atmospheric, this is a debut that hits the ground running”
“Thought-provoking and utterly original”
“Exceptional debut . . . A new UK crime writer to shout about”
Bookseller (Alice O'Keeffe)
“A very special debut thriller, and a clear-eyed depiction of ordinary people under extraordinary stress. This is something quite new”
ANN CLEEVES, CWA Gold Dagger winner 2006
“Blacklands heralds a fresh new voice in crime: Belinda Bauer inhabits the mind of her 12-year-old hero, struggling to tease the whereabouts of his uncle's body from an imprisoned child-killer, with uncanny conviction.”
“A compelling story of a fragmented family and the loss of innocence”
Woman & Home
“A tense, well-orchestrated crime novel with a refreshingly unusual premise”
Spectator (Books of the Year)
“A chilling and gripping original thriller by a great new talent. You'll want to race through to the scary climax”
Amanda Ross, Grazia
“Blacklands... managed to glean the best word-of-mouth for any new crime novel in years.”
Barry Forshaw, Independent (Best Books of 2010)
“A gripping read”
“Blacklands caused the hearts of hardened reviewers to flip a beat”
“With this extraordinarily powerful and provocative debut, Belinda Bauer has shifted the boundaries of what makes a truly gripping, terrifying thriller. Imagine Thomas Harris crossed with Kate Atkinson and you still won't be close...Right from the start you know you are reading something both new and with real guts...will leave you breathless.”
Henry Sutton, Daily Mirror