PJV Quickie: The horror in BAIT is not for the faint of heart. J. Kent Messum took a risky gamble starring vulgar, racist, heroin addicts and if you’re easily offended I suggest you put this book back on the shelf.
Review: BAIT is unique in the fact that it terrifies the reader in multiple levels. BAIT is about a group of heroin addicts dumped on a tiny island in the Florida keys and directed to swim across shark infested waters for their next fix…and meal. Each addict gets their own POV and flashbacks of the events leading up their abductions. Although there are multiple POVs, it is balanced by not having subplots.
The characters are complex; the action is gory (not overdone); therefore, the story is fairly straightforward. The tension of the present day story never offers any relief. Even when the characters aren’t doing anything, there’s that ever present threat of something terrible about to happen. Most of the time from the characters themselves. They don’t get along well. The flashbacks are equally as heart-wrenching. However, besides their love for heroin, the truly sad connection between the characters is the lack of friends and family to care enough to get them proper help.
None of the characters ever truly overcome their unlikeable status. The ruthless, selfish decisions made by them are plenty reason to hesitate before ever friending them on Facebook, let alone inviting them into your home. Frankly, the fact that I want to root for them to overcome these impossible odds despite hating them as people for the decisions they have made — that is a remarkable feat. Kudos to the author. Even the villains have their moments where you can empathize with why they do what they do without agreeing with their psychopathic decisions.
The second layer of horror is that, as a reader, you end up rooting for the survival of characters, who on the street you wouldn’t give two shits about. Why is it that we have no qualms about letting the homeless and drug-addicted fight a losing battle, yet when a handful of ex-military decide to entertain themselves with the throwaways of America, there’s a moral dilemma? Being addicted to drugs doesn’t make the person any less human. It doesn’t make their lives disposable. The question I had for myself after reading the story of these characters: Am I just as heartless as the villains? No…there definitely is a difference between negligent homicide and first degree murder. I’m not the one pulling the trigger. I’m on the sidelines watching them drown.
It’s rare that I find a book that delivers message about morals without dampening the entertainment factor of the book. I think that only thing that will disappoint me with J. Kent Messum is if he doesn’t write another horror book. I have not one complaint about the setup or execution of this brilliant novel. Horror fans will enjoy BAIT. My Little Pony fans might need a HAZMAT suit to survive both characters and story.