Many old school advocates of reading have unfortunately lost a fair bit of faith in the publishing industry. It has of course always been about what sells and matching the current trends. But as obvious as the product placements we find within the pages of a Stephen King bestseller, publishers are appearing to only consider teen horror fantasy and female erotic fiction. Both certainly seem to be the main topic discussed within the stuffy marketing boardrooms of the industry's leading publishers. Several gallons of coffee and a ton of Danish pastry's later, they decide to stick to these trends; after all, these are tough times and not worthy of taking any risks against the grain.
So it comes with much joy and surprise that Harlequin Mira, have taken a step back and gone with such a risk. A debut novel titled The Returned, flew through my letter box at the early part of last week, and since taking it out of the wrapping, it hasn't left my hands since.
Written by the award winning poet Jason Mott, the story confines within the Southern American Bible belt, a small town called Arcadia. Each of the colourful characters come with the usual prejudices, as one would expect stereotyped for the region. From the very first page, Mott introduces us to the challenging plot that the dead have returned. Nobody knows why this is happening, not even the returned themselves come with any answers. All that is clear, is that it's a global event.
Mott has written the novel in a way that you expect it to be an account from one of the more educated characters, whom often doubts their dates and so forth. This use of engagement with the reader, allows the mysterious narrator to guide you through the town and the story, with a somewhat effortless ease. The plot is tackled head on with an emotional fine tooth comb, dissecting faith in not just God, but also that of fellow men and the spirit of a small community, when all of which are tested to the extremes.
My immediate assumptions of the author, is that he is clearly a fan of Stephen King. Turning his setting into a testing ground of morals, resulting in the return of tribal functions and reasoning. However, the epic scale that King normally presents; with his details of complex characters, are all absent. Resulting in Motts original story taking the crown and not the characterisation, which is both within itself a bit of a blessing and a curse, as I'd fear that if the settings and characters were explored more, Mott would have a contender for many a book award.
Several readers whom pick up this book will recognise the mystery box technique in its story; where you give the reader a huge mystery that appears impossible and too fantastic to answer. This is a great hook for a reader and is undoubtedly why ABC and Brad Pitt's Plan B have decided to adapt it into a television series. Certainly such a plot will offer a wide audience, keen to find out all of the answers. Just as shows similar to Lost have a huge appeal, as eventually something rather awesome is going to happen. Giving in to the eagerness to rush to the end of this highly enjoyable read, in the vain attempt to find out what's going on, will not only spoil the story, but you'll also miss some rather fabulous writing.
The book is released 27th August from Amazon and is available in all good book shops.