The Blinds

The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh

Have you witnessed a violent crime?  Committed a horrific murder?  Witness protection not your thing?  Worried that jail will be boring?  Come on down to Caesura (..it rhymes with Tempura)!  In exchange for some light brain surgery, you’ll wake up with a new identity* and no memory of your ghastly past!**  You’ll be given your own beautiful detached home complete with neighbors who will offer a helping hand as you adjust to your new surroundings.***  Worried about law and order?  Need not worry as Sheriff Calvin Cooper is sworn to serve and protect****  Call us today and feel the freedom of isolation!

* Choose a first and last name from a list of vice presidents and movie stars.
** Permanent memory loss not guaranteed.
*** Neighbors may display homicidal tendencies.
**** The actions of the sheriff may not be within job description.

Adam Sternbergh’s The Blinds takes place in a remote Texas county miles from civilization in any direction.  The community, made up of a mixture of innocent witnesses and reformed criminals, is part of an experiment to perfect targeted mind erasure.  While they’ve lived in relative peace for eight years, townsfolk start dropping like flies.  Can Calvin Cooper solve the mystery or will the death rate continue to climb?

I picked up The Blinds after briefly meeting the author at a Harper-Collins signing event as a part of Bouchercon 2017.  I had read a few reviews on Goodreads but it had mostly flown under my radar until a recommendation from Chris Holm on Twitter catapulted this one to the top of my to-read pile.  Social networking can be a wonderful thing, no?

For the first one hundred pages or so, Sternbergh does such an excellent job with his world-building that I was gushing to anyone who would listen about how much I enjoyed the premise.  So while it would have been easy for Sternbergh to rest on the story’s originality like many plot-driven novels, he uses it to build into a tightly-crafted thriller where misdirection is used to great effect.  I never quite knew who to believe or where I was headed as the pages turned, which is always something I appreciate when it comes to my crime books.

This is a solid story about trying (and failing) to outrun your past.  We are, all of us, the sum of our experiences and no amount of mind manipulation can keep our true selves hidden forever.  Sternbergh explores what it means to define our present by our past, no matter how horrific our actions may have been.  In the end, we’re left with a novel that weaves fact and fiction together forming a patchwork of moral ambiguity.

The door is left open for a sequel and although I would have been happy with a standalone, I’d welcome another visit from these characters further down the road.

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