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Land of the Blind: A Novel Hardcover – March 18, 2003

45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Jess Walter, a reporter whose first novel fictionalized the true crime story of a serial killer in Spokane, Washington, (Over Tumbled Graves) has penned a riveting, elegiac thriller about a middle-aged man who wants Spokane police detective Caroline Mabry to witness his confession to a crime that hasn't yet been discovered. As Clark Mason writes the long story of a childhood friendship gone horribly wrong, readers will shudder, remembering their own tortured adolescence and revisiting it in that of Eli Boyle, whose physical and social awkwardness made him a natural target for his peers. Back then, even Clark joined the crowd in making fun of Eli. But he also showed him some kindness--enough to make Eli agree to let Clark turn his fantasy game, Empire, into a high-tech start-up years later, and to bankroll Clark's run for Congress. But when the technology boom goes bust and Clark's dreams run out of steam, Eli makes a last, frightening bid for what he's always wanted--revenge on those who made his childhood hell, including the woman Clark has loved since high school. Walter's abilities as a prose stylist and his sense of narrative tension shine through in this extremely well written novel, which is far stronger than his first, but shares its deep sense of time and place. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Spokane detective Caroline Mabry, the heroine of Walter's acclaimed debut, Over Tumbled Graves, returns in a supporting role in this new thriller. Burned out on the job and stuck in the night shift, Caroline is in the station house when Clark Mason stumbles in after midnight, needing to confess to a murder. With his fitted shirt, long tousled hair and eye patch (all three black), Clark intrigues Caroline, even as she chastises herself for the vague attraction. Before long, he's frenziedly writing his story on a series of legal pads, and she's following up on the leads that spill from his lips as he writes. His flashbacks stretch as far back as childhood, when Clark alternately befriends and betrays the intense misfit Eli Boyle. The first betrayal occurs when Clark is caught between scapegoat Eli and scary preteen bully Pete Kramer. Adolescence, with its romantic predicaments, only complicates the relationship between these three. As Clark's narrative rolls slowly forward in time, Caroline tracks down the people he mentions. Walter is at his incisive best juxtaposing the characters in the present with their childhood selves. Spokane is carefully rendered in all its moody complexity. Wracked by urban blight and an inferiority complex (it's no Seattle), the city holds an ineffable attraction for both Caroline and Clark. Similarly, Walter's novel takes sketchy detours and its characters repel as much as compel, but lucid writing and a palpable sense of nostalgia make it hypnotically compelling.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (March 18, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060394390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060394394
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,707 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, most recently the New York Times bestseller Beautiful Ruins (2012). He was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award for The Zero and winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel for Citizen Vince. His short fiction and essays have appeared in Harper's, McSweeney's, Playboy and other publications. He lives in his hometown of Spokane, Washington.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jerry L. McGahagin on November 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Outstanding novel told from the aspect of the main character flashing back on pertinent events in his lifetime that have led up to his current crisis. Told in a similar style to John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany", yet immensely easier to read. The plot flows more smoothly and maintains your interest throughout.
The story begins like your average detective/crime novel, but quickly becomes a flashback story as the main character - in attempt to write a confession - tells the story of his life and the life of the dead body discovered by police.
The title of the book comes from the old saying: "In the Land of the Blind, the One-Eyed Man rules all." The author manages to incorporate the saying into the story in a way that will startle and move the reader. An outstanding effort with twists and turns around every corner.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jim Kershner on April 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The label "crime novel" is inadequate to describe this powerful and haunting book. It gets under your skin in ways that the common whodunit can't approach. First, the structure is inspired. A eye-patched man walks into a police station, asks for a legal pad and begins to write a long and rambling confession. A confession to what? We don't know, and neither does the cop, Caroline Mabry. The bulk of the book consists of this confession, which is a remarkably vivid and sensitive memoir of the traumas, bullying and casual cruelties of childhood. Eventually, Mabry picks up enough clues to uncover the man's true crime. Yet the book's strength is in its theme: That the scars of our childhood last all of our lives. They shape our adult personalities in ways we cannot understand. This man's physical scar is evident; he lost an eye in a childhood accident. The book is full of allusions to sight and vision. Yet the entire book shows us that his psychic scars were far more debilitating and just as permanent. "The Land of the Blind" will stay with you long after you put it down.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Will in Seattle on May 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Jess Walter is a fantastic mystery writer. Perhaps too good for the genre and in this novel, he starts to go beyond it, what one reviewer called, 'transcending the genre'.
In this novel, Caroline Mabry, from his previous novel plays more of a supporting role in the memoir of Clark "the Loon" Mason. He wants to confess to a homicide and begins writing it out on legal pads as she checks the small bit of information he gives her. But we get to read his confession as he writes it, starting with his initial meeting with the deceased in middle school continuing on to how their lives twisted together to bring them together at the conclusion of the story.
While not the standard mystery, I couldn't put this book down, finishing it in two sittings. Jess Walter writes so well, he should probably take his next book outside of the mystery genre. The description in this book is graphic and sensory, the characters are believable and interesting.
I highly recommend reading this novel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ark Lady (Diana L Guerrero) on March 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
© 2003 by Diana Guerrero (
Detective Caroline Mabry meets lots of lunatics on her night shift, but this one with the eye patch is a gem. He wants to confess, but to what? When he says homicide, the journey begins. The reader travels back in time through his long written confession infused with brief glimpses back into the present and the thoughts of our heroine. An interesting read, I found the description of boyhood, teen trials, and related events to be vivid and entertaining. Land of the Blind is not your run of the mill detective story. I recommend it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By whodunit on January 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I write books for a living. I edit books. I publish books. I =live= books. But I rarely find myself impressed by books.

I'm impressed enough with Jess Walter to read his books. Now I find myself impressed enough with Land of the Blind to get off my jaded butt to recommend it to anyone who was ever teased in school, or bullied, or humiliated, or moved by the fear of any of the above to act against his better nature.

This is a book written in pain; it is painful to read, painful to relive personal moments like the moments it churns back into the light. Beyond being a work of beauty wrought from words, it is a book of truth wrought from memories of pain.

If you were ever, for just one moment, a schoolkid in over your head, with repressed memories of the you you'd rather not face, here's that rare opportunity to take it out, to examine it, to tell you that it wasn't as bad as it seemed.

Land of the Blind is a lifetime's worth of truth-telling therapy for about the price of lunch.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By FictionAddiction.NET on June 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Clark Mason arrives in the Spokane police department one Friday night, looking like any other homeless person. Only he isn't. Behind his disheveled appearance, his mysterious eye patch and his quirky behavior, he holds information to a murder.
Not believing him at first, Detective Caroline Mabry discards him as a lunatic, a nuisance, a bother. Clark soon convinces her, however, that there is more to his story than meets the eye. Under her consent, he proceeds to write his self-proclaimed confession for the next nineteen hours.
While Clark is busy penning his confession, Caroline is busy tracking down the tiny pieces of information she gleans from him. Slowly, she pieces together the story he is writing, his confession of how everything went wrong with his world.
But is he really a murderer? And if he is, whom did he murder?
Despite protests that usually an investigation starts with a body, not a killer, Clark is determined to convey his story to her in the best way he knows how: through the telling of his life story, and all the events leading up to the day he met Caroline.
Land of the Blind is an intriguing novel from start to finish, right down to its unusual chapter titles. Written unlike any other crime novel, its vivid descriptions and unusual twists keep the reader guessing. At times humorous and at times horrifying, this novel moves fluidly between the past and the present to tell a story unlike any other.
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