Book Tour Review: Bait by J. Kent Messum

Thursday, September 5, 2013
Title: Bait
Author: J. Kent Messum
Genre: thriller
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Published: August 27 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 2.5/5

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.

Plugged as Jaws meets Lord of the Flies meets Drugstore Cowboy, J. Kent Messum's Bait honestly reminded me of another classic -- The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell. While I can easily see the similarities to both Jaws and Lord of the Flies (I've never watched Drugstore Cowboy, so I can't venture an opinion on that one), what stood out to me in Bait was that people killed other people... for entertainment.

 If you can buy into the premise the book is selling, you're in for a nerve-wracking thriller that pits six desperate heroine junkies against man-eating sharks in the Florida Keys. If you're likely to love a plot-driven story, this might be a story for you. All I know is that I hated every character, and as a big character-reader, that constituted a large disconnect from the story. Honestly? I was rooting for the sharks -- at least they are supposed to be cold-blooded killers.

For a book with such a creative hook (fishing pun. Win!), it's surprising how much about Bait is predictable. The characters are stereotypes, the action is well-written but not original. There's a lot of tension between the six junkies, but I can't say I was ever surprised by how they acted amongst themselves. Some band together, some try on their own, and some betray their cohorts.... pretty much the generic layout for any survival story. I had expected more from the author -- Bait is a plot driven novel, and if the actual plot is less innovative than the concept behind it, there's a major problem.

Bait is a short book, and it's full of triggers. It can come across pretty offensively early in the narrative. I'm not one to knock stars off for vocabulary, but there were times when I was distinctly uncomfortable reading this -- and it had nothing to do with the gore. The numerous slurs tossed about by the characters do show how little they care about another person's feelings, but I don't even feel comfortable repeating them here. If you're put off by racial, sexual trigger words, I wouldn't and can't recommend this.

Bait is a shorter book, and it reads fast. It is a cutthroat novel, without any redeeming characters, and the tension is sky high from the start. For certain readers, I can see it being a big hit. I just happen to not be in that group. I can understand why others would enjoy it more than I did, especially if they are big fans of thrillers with animal antagonists. It may fail to live up to the originality of the premise, but Messum's debut is hardly boring.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this unusually book for the tour.


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