Fram, John. “The Bright Lands”, Hanover Square Press, 2020.
Football and Secrets
“The Bright Lands” by John Fram is set in the town of Bentley, Texas where two things are important— football, and secrets. When star quarterback Dylan Whitley goes missing, fear overtakes the town.
Joel Whitley was pushed out of conservative Bentley some ten years ago; now he’s finally made a life for himself as a gay man in New York. His younger brother’s disappearance n brings him back to the place he thought he’d left behind for good. Sheriff’s Deputy Starsha Clark stayed in Bentley and Joel’s return brings back many painful memories and questions about her own missing brother.
At the high school, Dylan’s friends begin to suspect that their classmates know far more than they’re telling the police. Together, they will stir up secrets their town has long tried to ignore and bring the attention of dangerous men who will stop at nothing to see that their crimes stay buried.
No one is quite ready to face what has begun to haunt them. There are whispers about a place long thought to be nothing more than an urban legend –The Bright Lands. This is a story about “old secrets, modern anxieties and the price young men pay for glory.”
We learn that Dylan had confided something in Joel and that he was not the only one. From the very first page, we find mystery, suspense, and dread that grows with each word. The story is filled with relevant issues— corrupt police, the situation of the LGBTQ community, and toxic masculinity.
This is a difficult book to review because it is easy to give away spoilers so I will try my best not to do so. The suspense is very real and as we read we want answers to questions. But that changes as we near the end when there is all action.
While I am not a mystery fan, I loved the mystery here with its slow build-up, fine prose and excellent ending. The gay themes are well-handled and I enjoyed the tone of the book.
“The Bright Lands” is darker than you might think. It begins with a supernatural mystery and then the reader is taken into “an insidious labyrinth of human cruelty, voracious supernatural evil, and startling malice. Unsettling, and compelling as hell.”