Occasionally one stumbles upon a book with a concept – a conceit – so creatively original that you know it is going to be a wild ride regardless of whether the author succeeds in pulling it off. The Blinds, the new novel from Adam Sternbergh, is just such a novel and fortunately for readers he not only successfully brings it to fruition, he excels in doing so.
Caesura, Texas is a town willing to give its residents a second chance – if fact, the entire construction of the town was orchestrated to do just that. Colloquially known as The Blinds, each of the residents of the town (forty-eight or so of them) was a former criminal or an innocent in need of witness protection. Unlike the standard version of witness protection, those entering The Blinds have their memory erased – so even they do not know why they are living in Caesura.
None of these captive residents is allowed to leave, they have no access to the Internet, and everyone has to wait for anything they need to be delivered on weekly supply trucks. Calvin Cooper is the town’s sheriff and he has two deputies. With no weapons allowed on the property, this is a more than adequate security force. That is, until the harmony of Caesura is ruptured by a series of deaths.
Standard crime fiction would proceed with an exploration and investigation into how these deaths occurred and more importantly, who was responsible for them; but The Blinds is anything but typical. Readers will find out the identity of the murderer relatively quickly, but rather than quell the suspense, the revelation opens up more questions than it provides answers. By manipulating the expectations inherent in crime fiction, Adam Sternbergh throws off both the equilibrium of The Blinds and that of each individual reading about the town.
The writing style of The Blinds is highly readable. Given the vast number of characters – and the fact that each of them have multiple identities – there was potential for some confusion. Adam Sternbergh manages to circumvent this by crafting unique individual characters with traits and names that help to orient them in the reader’s mind across the entire narrative. Readers barely have time to try to piece together what exactly is happening in this sanctuary known as The Blinds because Sternbergh keeps the pace running high throughout, with revelations spaced out to keep fans turning the pages long after they should be asleep.
In addition to his rip-roaring storyline, Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds also addresses some larger metaphysical ideas: Are people born evil – the whole nature versus nurture debate – and can a person manage to overcome their base instincts? What is the meaning of home? How does memory – or the lack of it – change personality? These are not easy questions to answer, and The Blinds does not proport to have any such grand illusions toward understanding; but what the novel does do is ask the reader to think about and question these larger concepts – both as it relates to the story at hand, as well as, within the world at large.
Disclaimer: A print copy of this title was given out after the opening ceremonies of Bouchercon. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.