By J. Kent Messum
(Plume, Paperback, 9780142180259, August 27, 2013, 288pp.)
The Short of It:
Think Survivor, on heroin. Utterly gripping but this is a dark, gritty little tale.
The Rest of It:
Six strangers wake-up on an island somewhere in the Florida Keys and what they have in common, is that they are all heroin addicts just coming off their last hit. As they struggle to piece together the puzzle of why they are there, the lure of treasure, in the form of a heroin, is what keeps them hopeful. To get it, they must risk everything and that includes shark infested waters and each other.
It’s a simple premise. Messum takes these six characters and places them in an impossible situation and let me tell you, it makes for some good reading. The pacing is tight and the writing is impressive. It’s a page turner but it’s a gritty, dark little book. Heroin addiction is not pretty and the desperation of these six people is made clear to the reader by what they are willing to do to score their next hit. As the pieces come together, the reader learns a little bit about each person’s background, but ultimately the problem with the premise itself is that it’s hard to feel anything for these characters. As one of the characters mentions in the book, these guys are throw-aways and I would have to agree.
Aside from that, the ride itself was quick and action driven, but it felt abbreviated to me. This was read in one sitting, and I am not sure it’s meant to be read that way. There are some things to ponder and the frantic pace did not really allow for that. For me, it played out like an episode of Lost. Lots of questions, lots to investigate but once the credits roll, you’re left hanging until the next episode. Only in this case, there isn’t a next episode to look forward to.
This begs the question, what makes a novel a novel? Bait was impressive but entirely too short. It had a beginning, a middle and an end and it explored some deep, dark secrets but in the end, it didn’t quite feel like a novel to me. It felt more like a novella and I’m not sure, but I’d guess that Messum changed his mind half-way through on who would survive. Wasn’t a bad choice but wasn’t surprising either.
Readers looking for a quick, fast-paced read will appreciate Bait for what it is but I prefer to spend a little more time with the characters. That said, I think Messum is a writer to watch. His ability to put you in the moment is impressive and the fact that I wanted more from him can only be good, right?
The publisher has made it possible for me to giveaway THREE copies of this book. Look for details at the bottom of this review.
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This giveaway is for one copy of Bait and is open to the US and Canada. THREE winners will be chosen randomly by me. The book will come directly from the publisher. Only one entry per person. Giveaway closes on September 6, 2013 (pacific). I will contact the winners for his/her mailing address.