I love finding a debut novel such as My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd that keeps me mesmerized and turning pages. Readers learn the reason behind Venus’s name in the prologue and learn whodunit in the first chapter. If they should decide there was little else of interest, they would be very wrong.
Soon after her arrest, Venus’s developmentally challenged brother is kidnapped for no apparent reason. Much of the story centers on Leo who has obsessive compulsive traits as well. Just when one is engrossed in Leo’s path, the author switches back to Venus and vice versa. The reader feels compelled to turn the next page.
The title hints that Venus will come back to her name after she takes an alias to hide her identity when she is released from prison. Other secondary characters include Inez, the addicted mother; Danny, who would like to be more than a friend; and Tony and Tessa who wind up taking Leo in when he is abandoned by the original kidnapper. These well-drawn characters flesh out a story of blame, love, loss, and a need for forgiveness.
The problems of Leo’s disability and Venus’s abuse add color and authenticity to the novel. Yet they do not call attention to the issues themselves so much as they add dimension to the tale and linger as things you think about when you are finished. I found the ending satisfying but hated for the book to be finished. Maybe Heather will write another one.