Prodigal Blues

You know those kids on the milk cartons and “Have you seen me?” posters? What would you do if you actually saw one of those kids?

Certainly you’d notify the authorities.

What would you do if you, yourself, were kidnapped after doing the right thing? By the very people who the missing child was with.

Well that’s the pickle Mark Sieber finds himself in, in Gary Braunbeck’s Prodigal Blues.

Let me tell you, if you have not read anything by Braunbeck, you are completely missing out. So far, the man is three for three with me, and I already picked up a forth.

Blues is brilliantly written and absolutely heartbreaking. The pain of Mark’s captors oozes from the pages, and even with what Mark goes through in the beginning of his journey with them, you can’t fault his captors. Braunbeck makes sure of that.

Like “Safe” (but unlike The Ballad of Road Mamma and Daddy Bliss) , Blues is very dark, very brutal and very wrenching. By brutal, I’m not talking about the violence (which there is). I’m talking about the way Braunbeck fleshes out his characters so well, that you really, truly care about what they are going through. He has this incredible knack of creating unique characters that have something about them that they are almost tangible. Even the minor characters in Blues (like Cletus, the mechanic) are interesting enough that you wouldn’t mind reading a book about them, too.

Reading Blues, and what it entailed and how it drained me somewhat, I couldn’t help but reminded somewhat of Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door. I assure you, it’s not as demoralizing as Door, but Blues does give you a sense of hopelessness reading it. And that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a little asskicking when you’re reading a book.

Now there’s a reason I haven’t delved too much into Mark’s captors, and it’s simple. It would spoil your enjoyment. Granted, you find out relatively early on what their deal is, but that’s no reason why I should ruin it for you. So I won’t.

Just buy it and read it already.