Bleeker Hill begins where Mardell’s last book, Stone Bleeding, left off, in a country torn apart. Though they exist within the same universe, Bleeker Hill doesn’t feel much like a sequel, it doesn’t require any knowledge of prior events and centers on a completely new group of people.
A man named Sullivan has been released from jail and forced to join a small group that is loyal to The Party, a pseudogovernment that took over in an attempt to bring some order to the chaos that the former government left behind. But The Party has gone mad with power and taken things entirely too far. After their headquarters are attacked, the group flees to one of the few remaining safe houses in Bleeker Hill. It’s one of those towns that everyone has heard stories about but very people have actually been to and for good reason. Stories themselves can’t hurt anyone, but the secrets that they hide just might.
It took me quite a while to get into the story. In the beginning, a number of characters are introduced quickly and with little background to distinguish one name from another. This initially confused the heck out of me, but was really the only way to do it. As a reader, you come to know the characters as they come to know each other, and they discover things about themselves and this strange place they have ended up in.
One place where Mardell’s books really stand out is in their use of descriptive language. He never falls into the trap of taking pages to describing something when merely stating its existence would be enough; however, there are times when it seems like single breath is held for pages and every single thing is illustrated in minute detail. Those are the moments that draw you in and they are moments that will remain with you long after this story has ended. Though at times the action touches on the supernatural, the most disturbing moments focus instead on the depths of human nature. Personally, I was hoping for a little bit more on the horror side; but, for the average reader, this is more approachable than a lot of the horror novels I have read.
Bleeker Hill has been described as ‘1984 meets The Shining’ but it reminded me more of J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians. Both Bleeker Hill and Waiting for the Barbarians deal with the ambiguity of justice, how the perception of self affects one’s actions, and probably a lot of other things I don’t remember (it’s been quite awhile since I read Coetzee).
I definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes well written novel that actually have something interesting to say about this thing we call humanity.
Bleeker Hill is currently available on kindle for 77p (UK) or 99¢ (US), with a paperback release scheduled for November 1st. If you’re on the fence, the prologue is available on Mardell’s site and there is a free preview (the prologue and part of the first chapter) available for download from Amazon.