Simon & Schuster, Jan 5 2010, $23.00
Nineteen years ago, eleven years old Billy went to buy cards, but never came home. A year later a man flashed teen Mason Dingle who reported him to the police. Avery is a pedophile serial killer working his horrors in the Exmoor region of England. Caught he takes to police to the graves of his young victims. He never identified his prey but Billy was assumed to be one of them.
Billy’s nephew Steven lives in his Nan’s house with his mom and younger brother in Shipcolt near Exmoor. It is a house of pain and anguish as Nan looks out the window hoping her Billy comes home. Billy’s room remains the same as a holy shrine while Nan suffers from guilt for not watching over him more carefully. Steven wants desperately the loving approval of his aloof mom and distracted grandma so comes up with a plan to achieve it. He sends a letter to Avery asking him for the location of where Billy is buried hoping the remains will provide closure to the grieving adults. Avery receives a picture of Exmoor and sees a reflection of Steven. The convicted killer plots to escape to get to Steven, who has forgotten all about his correspondence as his home life has taken a happy turn.
Blacklands explores the impact of a disappearing child on the surviving family members, even those not born at the time of the violent crime that takes away a loved one. The characters are fully developed including Avery. Fans anticipate the clash between an aging pedophile still following his impulses and the tweener who though he seeks the approval of his matriarchs is no victim; just ask the bullies he eludes all the time.