Bait by J. Kent MessumNo one is coming to your aid. We have ensured this.

Six strangers wake up on a remote island in the Florida Keys with no memory of their arrival. They soon discover their common bond: all of them are heroin addicts.

As the first excruciating pangs of withdrawal make themselves felt, the six notice a yacht anchored across open water.  On it lurk four shadowy figures, protected by the hungry sharks that patrol the waves.  So begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse. The six must undertake the impossible—swim to the next island where a cache of heroin awaits, or die trying.

When alliances form, betrayal is inevitable. As the fight to survive intensifies, the stakes reach terrifying heights—and their captors’ motives finally begin to emerge.

HUSK by J. Kent MessumIt’s the all too near future, and eternal life is a commodity only available to the ultra-rich.  Young and handsome Rhodes is a Husk whoring himself out to the wealthy who pay to inhabit his body, using his brain while his consciousness sleeps. During these sessions clients take hard drugs, have promiscuous sex, and participate in extreme dare-devil behaviors, all to feel the rush and pleasures of being alive again.

After repeatedly Husking for a demanding client, Rhodes begins to suffer a heavy mental toll. When strange schizophrenic visions and panic attacks start, he tries to get out of his cast-iron contract, but his employers won’t relinquish their asset. Disturbing questions arise, leading to grisly clues about his whereabouts while on the job. Finding himself pursued by various individuals, it isn’t long before he learns the true cost of Husking…


J. Kent Messum is an author, speaker, and creative writing instructor at the University of Toronto who always bets on the underdog. His first novel BAIT (2013, Penguin Books US/Canada/UK), won the 2014 Arthur Ellis Award for ‘Best First Novel.’ Publishing rights were also acquired in Brazil, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, & Brazil.

His second novel HUSK (2015, Penguin Books UK) was optioned for an international TV series by the Bafta winning Warp Films. Publishing Rights have also been sold to Greece, Brazil, and the China Complex.

Messum lives in Toronto with his wife, dog, and duo of cats. He is currently working on his third and fourth novels, and is also a book critic for the New York Journal Of Books.




“Reading J. Kent Messum’s Bait is like taking a high dive into black water. What you find in its murky depths is disturbing, pulse-pounding and utterly surprising. An exhilarating debut.”

Megan Abbott, Edgar-Award-winning author of ‘Dare Me‘.


“The stakes could be no higher in this crisply written, fast-paced novel that examines the shifting line between right and wrong, good and evil. Bait will keep readers turning pages late into the night.”

Lori Roy, Edgar-Award-winning author of Bent Road and ‘Until She Comes Home‘.


Messum should be given full credit for the unrelenting darkness of Bait: it is rare to find a novel so willing to embrace an almost existential level of hopelessness and despair.

Robert J. Wiersema for the National Post