Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Land of the Blind.
Jess Walter has written a clever and unique novel. Land of the Blind combines elements of suspense and mystery, layered in literary prose. There is nothing cookie-cutter about Walter's mystery. It is an impacting and impressive novel, especially for the mystery scene.
The police pick up a man who has scaled the scaffolding of an old twelve-story hotel. Police consider the man a Loon, a potential jumper. When they confront him, he wants to confess. The police have no idea what the Loon wants to confess about; as far as they can tell, no crime has been committed. Still, they bring him in for questioning.
Police Detective Caroline Mabry is nearing the end of her shift. She senses a familiarity about the Loon waiting for her in Interrogation Room #2. Although he resembles a bum, wearing dirty clothes and his face is unshaven, she sees that his clothing is not shabby. And something about his face sparks a memory. The Loon is wearing a patch over his left eye. Is the eye missing, or is the patch just for show? Loons wanting to confess are brought in all the time. Usually the detectives listen for a minute then let the person go. But this Loon has a story to tell. He wants to confess to murder, but isn't comfortable talking about it. Mabry suggests he write out his statement, and sign it when he's finished.
The Loon, Clark Mason, begins writing out his confession on a legal pad. In order for him to confess completely, he needs to start at the beginning. And he does, taking the detective back to the days of his adolescence: monster-like bullies, friendships built on nothing, relationships emerging from thin air. And at the center of it all there was always the one kid everyone loved to hate—Eli Boyle. He was heavy, smelly, dirty, wore glasses and leg braces, peed his pants in class -- you name it, he had it or did it. And Mason's friends, and his demons, tormented this one pathetic boy relentlessly.
Detective Mabry finally realizes why this Loon looks familiar to her: he once ran for political office, and lost. As Mason continues to fill up legal pad after legal pad with his Statement of Fact, Mabry begins an investigation into his life. Her search for answers takes her down a path that intersects the one Mason is writing, and her discoveries fill in some of the blanks.
The question remains: Has an actual murder been committed? Land of the Blind is a demanding and unnerving read. The characters are seamless, the story filled with raw deception and lies. The tightly plotted story is clever, with some unsettling twists at the beginning, during the middle and, especially, at the end. Jess Walter is a talented writer with a creative voice who has plenty to offer to a potentially saturated genre.