August 27, 2013
TLC Book Tours
No one is coming to your aid. We have ensured this.
Six strangers wake up on a remote island in the Florida Keys with no memory of their arrival. They soon discover their common bond: all of them are heroin addicts. As the first excruciating pangs of withdrawal make themselves felt, the six notice a yacht anchored across open water. On it lurk four shadowy figures, protected by the hungry sharks that patrol the waves. So begins a dangerous game. The six must undertake the impossible—swim to the next island where a cache of heroin awaits, or die trying. When alliances form, betrayal is inevitable. As the fight to survive intensifies, the stakes reach terrifying heights—and their captors’ motives finally begin to emerge.
Bait: A Novel by J. Kent Messum is not typically the type of novel one would find me reading. Even my husband was surprised when I read him the description of the book. Then it dawned on him that six people stranded together on an island would definitely have to have some romance in this book. A romance novel, this book is not. I didn’t expect it to be, nor did I want it to be. That’s not why I decided to read it in the first place. My reasons were the following:
- I have an irrational fear of sharks (I’m landlocked, people. And I don’t go to aquariums or other places where sharks might be.)
- I was a huge fan of Lost and found the island setting intriguing.
- I wanted to find out who was behind sticking these six people on an island together—and why.
Unfortunately, Bait fell flat for me. The premise of the novel is, of course, fascinating. The six people who find themselves stranded on the island are all heroine addicts that have become a part of some sick, twisted game. Their every move is being monitored, and when someone does something that the people watching them doesn’t like, there are consequences, sometimes fatal ones.
I think it will be difficult for most readers of this book to develop any sort of attachment to the characters. Death is no laughing matter, and what these characters have all lived through is tragic, even if they are circumstances they created for themselves through greed and weakness. The statistic that Messum provides is that only one out of ten addicts fully recover. This is a scary statistic—and one more reason to add to the already long list of why one should never try drugs.
The reason I couldn’t personally connect with any of the characters is because they do not stick around for long, and due to the nature of the game being played with them, I knew that it was unlikely any of them would survive. I think of this book sort of like a horror film where the viewer guesses which character is going to get knocked off next. In horror films, I think most viewers don’t really think of the characters as actual people. They don’t become attached to them. I think there is only one or two horror movies where I have actually cared about the characters. Most horror movies I don’t even remember the characters’ names: the only thing I might remember is what creative, sadistic way the writers dreamed up to kill of the character.
The captors of the victims are just as lifeless. I was hoping their reason for engaging their victims in the game would be powerful and the saving grace of the novel. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Their purposes were compelling, but didn’t really justify (or make sense) why they would think up this sort of game. Why sharks? Why a deserted island?
Bait will surely appeal to some readers and draw them in. Hopefully those readers will find more worth in it than I did, however. What I did finally take in from the novel was summed up in the final sentence of the book. It does pack some punch and drives home what the novel was trying to accomplish. I think a short story may have been the best choice for the length of this novel.