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Blacklands

Blacklands

A Novel

  • reading group guide
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. Only Billy’s mother is convinced he is alive. 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. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle’s corpse, he’ll do it.

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.P."—William "Billy" Peters.

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. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he’s receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too.

Although his is far more dangerous . . .


Blacklands
is a taut and chillingly brilliant debut that signals the arrival of a bright new voice in psychological suspense.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 240 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439149454 | 
  • January 2011
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Blacklands includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Belinda Bauer. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

INTRODUCTION

Steven Lamb is on a mission: to find the buried body of his uncle Billy, one of several children murdered nineteen years ago. Steven is certain that finding the remains of his uncle is the key to healing the wounds in his severely fragmented family and easing the tension between his mother and his nan. After three years of luckless digging, he turns to the one person who can help his cause—Billy’s suspected killer, the imprisoned Arnold Avery. What begins as a cryptic correspondence between two strangers quickly turns into an enthralling game of cat and mouse, as Avery realizes that the person asking him for clues is the object of his greatest desire: a child.

With thrilling and heartfelt turns, Belinda Bauer crafts a taut novel of suspense that looks closely at what happens when the cloud of tragedy hangs over a family—and how far a young boy is willing to go to try to fix everything.

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1. How does the earth play into the story’s narrative? Consid see more

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About the Author

Belinda Bauer
Johnny Ring

Belinda Bauer

Belinda Bauer grew up in England and South Africa. She has worked as a journalist and screenwriter, and her script THE LOCKER ROOM earned her the Carl Foreman/Bafta Award for Young British Screenwriters, an award that was presented to her by Sidney Poitier. She was a runner-up in the Rhys Davies Short Story Competition for “Mysterious Ways,” about a girl stranded on a desert island with 30,000 Bibles. Belinda now lives in Wales.

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