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Land of the Blind: A Novel Paperback – August 18, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
Book 2 of 2 in the Caroline Mabry Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061712841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061712845
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,683 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Hardcover
© 2003 by Diana Guerrero (allianceofwriters.com)
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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Nice reading a novel where the author's target demographic is mature, educated, well-read adults. No murder mystery, no plot to overthrow the government, no retired Navy Seals, no zombies or magic. Just a well-told story with some wonderful characters. Thank you, Jess.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I should start by stating two things:
1. I am not a fan of mysteries or police procedurals
2. I have read every novel and short story collection by Jess Walter

This book is superb. Mr. Walter writes beautifully but not in a manner that says
look at me; see how well I write; see all the big words and compound sentences.

This book, like most of his work, is character-driven. He writes characters who are
real flawed human beings in such a way that we are interested in them (dare I say like them)
for both their strengths and weaknesses, their foibles and their normalities, their neuroses
and their introspection. We can relate to these people and can understand them and how that
leads them through their encounters with reality and their reactions to it.

In this wonderful book, the two protagonists are examining the life and actions of one of them.
One is writing a confession in the form of a life history leading him to the end and the other,
a detective, starting at the end consequence and in the course of investigating it, working backwards
to unravel the life story behind the final action. The same story being unearthed in reverse directions.
Creative structure that helps us see the same life and conduct through two different sets of eyes (well one
and a half sets of eyes) thereby revealing the differences of the two protagonists in personality, psyche and
the driving forces of their lives. Just wonderful reading.
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