Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Leisure Books
I can’t imagine it’s easy in this day and age to break into the field of novelist, mainly due to the amazing amount of self-funded e-publishers out there that seem to care little for content and even less for editing. So for someone to break through with a horror novel and have it be picked up by a reputable publishing house must be a great challenge, and generally it means that said writer has got some exceedingly impressive skills.
Case in point: Sarah Pinborough’s The Hidden, the latest release from that bastion of good horror literature, Leisure Books. The story is of a woman, Rachel Wright, who awakens in a hospital room with absolutely no memory of who she is or how she got there. This is not as uncommon as one might think, and her doctors assure her that given time and the right amount of motivation, her memories will come back to her and she will be back to the same old girl she was before.
After getting a ride home from her next-door neighbor and the man that found her unconscious in her bathroom with a broken mirror, however, nothing comes rushing back. No details, no memories, not even recognition of once familiar objects. It seems her mind is a steel trap, unable or unwilling to let any of her old self back out so she can resume her old life.
As the days go by, she soon realizes that, in all actuality, her old life was very dull and uneventful, and perhaps she doesn’t want those memories back. Maybe the new Rachel Wright is the improved version of her former self, and a good smack on the head was all it took to get rid of all her apparent past dryness. The only real problems are the horrible, screaming nightmares she has every night that she’s unable to remember upon waking, and surely one can get used to that, right?
At the same time, some very strange murders begin to occur across London (where the story is set), and recent widower Detective Murray is called in, being the best there is at his job. The only link between the murders that occur is the presence of broken mirrors at all the crime scenes and the horribly inventive way the victims are dispatched. Murray is at a loss for the most part, until he opens his mind a bit to the idea that perhaps there is something more sinister and otherworldly going on…and what does the recently deceased mysterious occult bookstore owner Elizabeth Ray have to do with it all?
You really don’t know how hard it is to write a review for this book without giving away any of the spoilers, but I simply have to try my best because that was the best part of the book for me. Not just trying to figure it out before the police do, because even that proves a bit difficult, but appreciating the shear originality of the entire concept as it’s slowly revealed. I can honestly say I’ve not read a novel like The Hidden before; its ideas of the supernatural and the things that lie on the other side of death are quite unique, and Mrs. Pinborough does an amazing job with her revelations so you’re not finding out things too far ahead of the game.
But Pinborough’s most honed skill lies in her characterization. Though most horror books always seem to feature a cop in one role or another, Detective Murray doesn’t come across as the same jaded insensitive you usually see on the scene. The loss of his wife has affected him deeply, and he’s determined to keep the rest of his family (twins and his mother-in-law) as safe as possible, no matter the cost. Rachel Wright is the central character, but the focus shifts more towards Mike, her next-door neighbor and eventual boyfriend, as the problems mount. Rachel just wants to have a normal life with her newfound love, even though she knows there is something very, very wrong about her, especially considering the power of her dreams. But we’re given a better idea of how this looks to the normal person through the eyes of Mike, who is about as innocent as you can get (he’s a schoolteacher for God’s sake), and can’t help the feelings that develop for this apparently severely messed up woman.
Because of all this, when the final truth is revealed and the last act is set in motion, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen in the end. The truth of what (or who) Rachel really is and what is causing all the death to those around her is horrible and unshakeable, however, and it leaves every character changed in the book’s final pages, even ruined. This gives the emotional content of The Hidden that much more of a real feeling, and you can’t help but sympathize.
All in all, it’s a great read. Leisure Books are sold in any self-respecting book store, or you can use the link below to get it online, and I recommend you do so if you’re inclined to try something new and witness what could be the start of a great career for Sarah Pinborough if she keeps this up.
Click here to get The Hidden from Evilshop!
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