Review, Tour & Giveaway (3 copies!): Bait

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.

J. Kent Messum

To visit his Facebook page, click here.

Follow @_JamieK_ to follow him on Twitter!

To visit his other tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review and giveaway copies provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.


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.



18 thoughts on “Review, Tour & Giveaway (3 copies!): Bait”

    1. Have you ever seen the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks? The “stranded on an island” thing is what makes the story alluring. You keep reading to see if they will ever figure a way off.


  1. Just finished this last night, and it was a blazing fast read. I would agree, almost too fast. There was so much potential in these people’s back stories, and so much untold about the motivations of the guys on the boat. But the point is pretty powerful.

    1. Once you start the book, you can’t put it down. It’s super fast in the telling but perfect if you have a day to just spend reading.


  2. Hmmmm, as a friend to someone who has a son surviving a heroin addiction (clean for 2 years now), I feel moralistically disapproving of this story from its premise and also that the characters are ‘throw away’. Addiction is nasty stuff and can happen so quick that to suggest these people are not victims of cruel epidemic and not worthy of care strikes me uncomfortable to say the least.

    1. That was my main issue with it. I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to care all that much what happened to them. Had some of them been say, a housewife who was battling addiction or basically, someone with more of a back story that I could root for, I think this would have been a more powerful read.

      From the beginning, these people are losers. No redeeming qualities to speak of. That was the one issue I had with it. My husband’s friend passed away yesterday. A confirmed alcoholic that just fell off the wagon again. He had a wife and two kids who had just agreed to give him another chance and right after my husband got off the phone with him, he died. Looks like a heart attack. But those everyday folks that you don’t think would ever have a problem like this, those are the ones that are especially tragic.


  3. it’s too bad the author didn’t add to the book by expanding on the characters backgrounds and giving readers a reason to root for, at least, some of the characters. I’d still really like to read it. I’m very curious about how the book turns out given the premise.

    Thank you for the giveaway, Ti!

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