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The Blinds: A Novel Hardcover – August 1, 2017
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“Eerie. . . . Sternbergh’s characters are intriguing, his plot is suspenseful and his outlook is endearingly dark. . . . Sternbergh is an original, grandly irreverent writer.” (Washington Post)
“A thrilling Western unlike any you’ve read before.” (Vulture)
“Expertly melds the thriller and the Western. . . . Truly original.” (Associated Press)
“Crackles with noirish delights. . . . Sternbergh writes a beautiful sentence, even when the subject is mayhem, and he has a talent for lean, propulsive plotting.” (Newsweek)
“Sternbergh shows again why he is one of the most inventive thriller writers working today.” (Booklist (starred review))
“A tense, broiling, 21st-century Western with a crafty premise.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“The newest release from the riveting Adam Sternbergh.” (Popsugar)
“A quick-paced story of crime and deception.” (Dallas Morning News)
“[An] exciting new thriller. . . . This book doesn’t pull any punches.” (Bookish)
“Guilt, memory, and redemption swirl through this inventive science fiction-based thriller.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Adam Sternbergh is a genre-bender of the highest caliber. Part thriller, part Western, part pulpy whodunit, The Blinds is a propulsive and meaningful meditation on redemption and loss. It’s witty, electrifying, vivid, and thoroughly original.” (Dennis Lehane, author of Since We Fell)
“The Blinds is brilliantly original. Fast-paced, ranging, and inventive, Adam Sternbergh’s restless imagination once again conjures characters and scenarios with heartbreaking insight, peril, and startling stakes. Readers take heed; this is a hell of a ride.” (Smith Henderson, author of Fourth of July Creek)
“Adam Sternbergh tops my list of drop-everything-and-read novelists. With hints of Charles Willeford and Philip K. Dick, and rendered with achingly beautiful prose, The Blinds plucks the strings of Sternbergh’s favored themes-identity, loss, meta-reality-creating a symphony of noirish grit and improbable grace.” (Gregg Hurwitz, author of The Nowhere Man)
“The Blinds is a wild, fever-dream of a novel. Posing questions about the power-and peril-of running from the past, Sternbergh’s vivid vision and the people he brings to life will haunt you long after you turn the shocking final pages.” (Julia Dahl, author of Invisible City and Conviction)
From the Back Cover
“This may not be a prison, and it may not be purgatory, but it’s sure as hell not a paradise, either. This is the Blinds.”
Imagine a place populated by criminals—people plucked from their lives, with their memories altered, who’ve been granted new identities and a second chance. Welcome to the Blinds, a dusty town in rural Texas populated by misfits who don’t know if they perpetrated a crime or just witnessed one. What’s clear to them is that if they leave, they will end up dead.
For eight years, Sheriff Calvin Cooper has kept an uneasy peace, but after a suicide and a murder in quick succession, the town’s residents revolt. Cooper has his own secrets to protect, so when his new deputy starts digging, he needs to keep one step ahead of her—and the mysterious outsiders who are threatening to tear the whole place down. The more Cooper learns, the more the hard truth is revealed: The Blinds is no sleepy hideaway. It’s simmering with violence and deception, aching heartbreak and dark betrayals.
Top customer reviews
An isolated small town in Texas, home to those who can't remember why they were sent there. In their past lives, they were either criminals or witnesses. Now, their memories have been wiped out and they live in the town they refer to as The Blinds. They'll live and die there, as the agreement they made ensures they can't leave. But, after eight fairly peaceful years, Sheriff Cooper has trouble on his doorstep. A suicide, a murder and strangers arriving in town have upset the rhythm and routine of the town......
The Blinds has a distinctly unique plot driving the book forward. There was no way to even begin to predict where things might go. Carrying that plot forward are a fairly large number of residents. Those residents are only known by the names they chose when they arrived - a combination of a movie star and a President's name. (This alone fulfills the publisher's note that the book will appeal to Coen Brothers fans) I wondered if anyone remembered their before - or was there anyone there who didn't have their memory wiped? I found it was hard to really connect with the characters as they have no back story, no memories, no reasons - they are simply marking time until....? What are these government looking guys after? Their arrival did open up the possibility that we would learn more. And we definitely do - but truthfully I wasn't that invested by the time answers finally came. And maybe its because of my pragmatic nature, but I found the ending a bit hard to buy, as well as some of the later plot devices that led to the final resolutions. This was just an okay read for me, but I may be in the minority on this one - there are many who loved it.
I chose to listen to The Blinds. The reader was Stephen Mendel. He's a reader I've enjoyed before. His voice is clear, easy to understand and is expressive - rising and falling as he narrates. Mendel differentiates between characters with tone and tenor. His matter of fact tone suited the unusual plotting of The Blinds.
The Blinds defies being slotted into a genre. It's part mystery and thriller along with some sci-fi and Western overtones
The Blinds: A Novel
Hardcover, 978-0-0626-6134-0, (also available as an e-book, an audio book, and on audio CD), 400 pgs., $26.99
August 1, 2017
1. NO VISITORS
2. NO CONTACT
3. NO RETURN
Those are the rules in Caesura (rhymes with “Tempura”), Texas (aka The Blinds), population forty-eight, located somewhere outside Amarillo, enclosed by a fourteen-foot fence. A twist on the United States Federal Witness Protection Program (WITSEC), the population of Caesura are criminals (some are a “coiled trap,” others are “more like a malfunctioning valve, a faulty weld, a crack in a storage tank leaking toxins”). But they don’t know that. A shadowy organization called the Fell Institute has perfected a method to wipe our memories, and made a deal with the U.S. Marshals to conduct a cruel neurological and psychological experiment. All has been peaceful in Caesura for eight years, but now there are two bodies, both shot to death.
The Blinds: A Novel is the latest from Edgar-nominated author Adam Sternbergh. This novel is an original fusion of mystery, comedy, procedural, suspense, and western, seasoned with a bit of science fiction — The Sopranos meets The Andy Griffith Show meets The Twilight Zone.
Sternbergh has a lot of fun naming his characters: Each new citizen of Caesura is required to choose a new name using two lists; one list is the names of movie stars, the other is names of United States vice presidents. The result is characters named Spiro Mitchum and Doris Agnew, which had me giggling regularly.
These characters are numerous and diverse, but because of the lack of backstories due to the memory wipes, they can’t be complex, making identifying with them and caring about them challenging. There are a few exceptions. Sheriff Calvin Cooper, our anti-hero who’s never had to load his sidearm until now, is given to rambling interior monologues. Sidney Dawes is Cooper’s new deputy. She’s officious, ambitious, and insubordinate. Fran Adams, former love interest of Cooper, is the only resident with a child, eight-year-old Isaac, born in Caesura. Fran’s only memento of her previous life, other than Isaac, is a tattoo of a series of numbers encircling her wrist.
The Blinds takes place over five days, but Sternbergh takes too long building to the action, and when the action begins the unrelenting violence becomes tedious. But the plot is intricate and creative, the foreshadowing is hair-raising, the twists whiplash-inducing. And you have to appreciate a plot that employs Susan Sontag essays as a major clue.
Sternbergh can turn a phrase. During a town meeting, the “crowd pulsates in the heat, murmuring, fluid and combustible.” In the bar, “a defeated ceiling fan begins its exhausted rotation.” When the climactic action begins, “The silences after the shots are the worst part. Then more shots, sharp reports, getting closer,” a resident thinks, “Like the knock of a census-taker, stopping at every door on the block, approaching yours.” Channeling Davy Crockett, Cooper says, “Let me stress that, despite the perimeter fence and the various rules, your residency here is not a punishment. You are not in jail. You are not in hell. You are in Texas.”
The Blinds is about community, retribution (“a distant relative of justice”), the possibility of redemption, and the role memory plays in identity. There’s more than meets the eye to The Blinds.
Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.
The Blinds piqued my interest right away with its compelling premise: a secret town in rural Texas, populated by dangerous criminals whose memories have been wiped of their wrong-doings. Here, they have a second chance at a new life, knowing that if they ever try to leave, they'll likely end up dead or worse.
For eight years now, the social experiment has been relatively successful. The inhabitants of The Blinds have formed a little community, with Sheriff Calvin Cooper helping them keep the peace. But then one of the residents commits suicide. And a couple months later, another is murdered. For a town with no guns that's completely hidden away from the outside world, something doesn't add up.
The Blinds is a place where everyone harbors secrets—even Cooper himself—so this ensuing chaos doesn't bode well for the precarious community. Who is behind these recent events. And, more importantly, what is their motive?
This is a fast-paced read—a mystery-thriller with a western noir vibe—that follows several engaging sub-plots revolving around a handful of the residents. As the story progresses, the moral ambiguity deepens, which is something that I always appreciate. In a town like The Blinds, there is no clearly defined "right" or "wrong."
As with many mystery-thrillers, the plot becomes more tenuous as all the sub-plots merge together into the finale. With books like this one, I've learned to just accept the plot holes and suspend my disbelief when needed—all in service of the greater good of escaping into a mindlessly entertaining novel. This, of course, is what separates the good from the truly great. For entertainment value alone though, The Blinds delivers.