Bait is the debut novel of J. Kent Messum.
Messum had me 'hooked' from the opening prologue - a desperate attempt by a man in the water to out swim the natural predators of the ocean.....
But the sharks aren't the most dangerous animals out there. Instead, it is the men on the boat, making bets, drinking beer and filming the carnage that are truly more dangerous.
Six people from the down and out neighbourhoods of Miami wake up on a deserted island deep in the Florida Keys. Strangers to each other, they eventually find common ground - they're all junkies. And each is starting to jones. The men on the boat have left them an envelope with instructions, along with a few sandwiches. What they crave is on the next island - all they have to do is make it there.
Sound like the TV show Survivor? Absolutely - Survivor combined with Jaws - on heroin.
Messum spins his story in past and present chapters, allowing us to know the lives of each of the six in the days leading up to the island. Although each of the six has a set of hard luck circumstances that led to them being 'chosen', it's hard to be empathetic. They aren't likable characters. Messum doesn't spend a lot of time developing their personalities though. Bait is completely plot and action driven.
And Messum has done an excellent job with that. We just know that someone's going to bite it. Or get bit as the case may be. The question is, who? Will someone make it to the end? How will they do it - working together or sacrificing each other? Who are these guys on the boat?
Messum uses worm metaphors to describe the lure of and the junkies' love of dope that made me squirm more than once. "The worms in their heads grew fat and satisfied, rolling cool and wet through their disjointed thoughts."
I did find the motivation of those on the boat to be a bit clichéd and predictable. These characters seemed more like caricatures. But they work if you look at it with an action flick eye. Bait has thriller movie written all over it. Messum provides a nice little twist near the end.
Bait was a quick down and dirty one sitting read at 288 pages - addictive and adrenaline reading for sure. Read an excerpt of Bait.
(Gentle readers be warned - blood, gore and violence) A strong debut - I'll be sure to 'catch' Messum's next book.
"J. Kent Messum has worked as a session musician, freelance writer, producer, internet radio station disc jockey, bartender, office gopher, music teacher, movie grip, labourer, contractor, and a few other things he’d rather not admit. A glutton for punishment, Messum has been heavily involved in both the music and film businesses for well over a decade. He writes incessantly, putting on paper as many stories and ideas as his time will allow. The literary business is a welcome change, since he writes as if his life depended on it anyway. Bait is his first novel. He lives in Toronto." You can find J. Kent Messum on Twitter and on Facebook.
See what others on the TLC Book Tour thought. Full schedule can be found here. Thanks to the generosity of Plume, an imprint of Penguin Books, I have three - yes three! copies to giveaway. Open to US and Canada, simply leave a comment to be entered. Closes Oct 5/13 when a random winner will be chosen.