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The Blackbird Papers: A Novel Hardcover – June 15, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
NBC News medical correspondent and nonfiction author Smith (Dr. Ian Smith's Guide to Medical Websites, etc.) leaps headfirst into the thriller pool and comes up flailing with this mediocre tale of a renegade African-American FBI agent, Sterling Bledsoe, and his investigation into his estranged brother's apparently race-motivated murder. Dartmouth College professor Wilson Bledsoe is driving home from a party celebrating his recent winning of the Devonshire Award, the most lucrative prize in science, when he stops to help two rednecks having truck problems. Soon enough, he's dead. Cut to his brother Sterling, who's awakened, along with girlfriend Veronica ("She was gorgeous, like all his women"), by a phone call from the Hanover, N.H., police department. Even though Sterling hated his brother, he hops a plane and races to the scene in a rented sports car. Once there, he wows the local cops with his big city, FBI sleuthing techniques. Smith's attempts at stylish writing are painfully misguided: "Sterling stretched his eyes across the valley," and his characters tend to scream, groan, sob, growl and shriek. Sterling's not only smart and tough, he's sensitive, as evidenced by all the weeping he does: "Sterling Bledsoe didn't just tear up, he cried. Big sloppy tears." The mystery hinges on Wilson's recent discovery of hundreds of dead blackbirds and the method of their mass demise. The eventual denouement is labored, and Sterling's last-minute rescue relies on a technological trick that has become a cliché in the thriller field. Smith's medical background serves him well here, but he needs to familiarize himself with the genre and acquire a good editor if he expects veteran readers to take him seriously.
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“Ian Smith’s debut novel, The Blackbird Papers, is exceptional on all levels: the characters and setting are fresh, the plot is riveting, and you feel like you are in totally new territory. Take note of a career about to soar.”—Harlan Coben, author of No Second Chance
Top customer reviews
In terms of literature and writing style, the book is not incredibly original, but few mysteries are. As a story, this one really can't be beat. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery, especially African American book clubs, because we need more books like this one -- Sterling Bledsoe, a black character who is a FBI agent, and not a street hustler. A very refreshing portrayal!