T his astonishingly assured debut, from journalist and screenwriter Belinda Bauer , for once lives up to the hype. Set on Exmoor, it's the story of a cat-and-mouse game between year-old Steven and Arnold Avery, the serial violator and killer of children who, 18 years before, murdered Steven's year-old Uncle Billy and never revealed where he buried the body. Steven's grandmother, soured by grief, spends her time standing at the front window waiting for her boy to return and sniping at her daughter, Steven's downtrodden mother Lettie. Steven's dad is long gone, replaced by a succession of short-term "uncles", and the house is damp, decaying and comfortless. Uncle Billy's bedroom, with a half-built Lego space-station on the floor and a Manchester City scarf pinned above the bed, is a shrine. Steven himself, unpopular and bullied at school, where even the teachers find it hard to identify him other than as the kid who smells faintly of mildew, spends his spare time digging holes on Exmoor, desperate to heal his family by finding Uncle Billy's corpse.

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A taut and chillingly atmospheric debut that signals the arrival of a bright new voice in psychological suspense and "a brilliant analysis of an exceedingly twisted mind" Chicago Tribune.

Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered—after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village.

She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her. But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose. Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.

So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the gravesite, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. Although his is far more dangerous Get a FREE e-book by joining our mailing list today!

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Blacklands by Belinda Bauer

Steven Lamb is 12 when he writes his first letter. His uncle disappeared aged eleven and is assumed to have fallen victim to the notorious serial killer Arnold Avery - but his body has never been found. Steven's Nan does not believe 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 - even if that means presenting his grandmother with the bones of her murdered son.



British author Bauer's solid debut focuses on Steven Lamb, an unhappy year-old boy who lives with his mother, grandmother, and five-year-old brother in Shipcolt, Somerset. Steven's grandmother is still haunted by the disappearance and suspected murder of her year-old son, Billy, 19 years earlier. The authorities assume Billy was killed by pedophile Arnold Avery, who was convicted of six counts of murder and is serving a life sentence in Longmoor prison. Determined to find Billy's remains, Steven has been methodically digging up the moor near his house. Frustrated by his lack of progress, he writes a letter to Avery asking for information, and so begins a cat-and-mouse game that will have dire consequences.


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Bauer, Belinda - 'Blacklands' Paperback: pages Jan. In this first book by Belinda Bauer, we are introduced to Stephen Lamb a twelve-year-old who is trying to find the body of his uncle. Stephen lives with his mother and younger brother Lewis at his grandmother's house near Exmoor. His uncle Billy was abducted when he was about that same age as Stephen and his body has never been found. In order for Stephen to have a normal life, he feels that he has to solve the riddle of his uncle's disappearance and find his body, so that his Gran will be happy.


Belinda Bauer brings two great attributes to an often-exploited genre, the novel of crimes against children. First, much of her story is told from a child's viewpoint. In so much fiction of this kind, a child is a mere hook on which to hang the story. But Bauer's year-old Steven has such a convincing voice that the reader can really feel for the suffering of this boy in a sad family.

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