Title: THE HIDDEN
Author: Melanie Golding
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Read: July 2021
Expected publication: 9 November 2021
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2
One dark December night, in a small
seaside town, a little girl is found abandoned. When her mother arrives twenty
frantic minutes later, authorities release the pair, believing it to be an
innocent accident of a toddler running off.
But when a man is found beaten and left for dead in his apartment and a bedroom is discovered to contain a padlock and--most worryingly of all--children's toys, DS Joanna Harper begins to suspect the little girl on the seafront was not who her mother claimed. Worse, when CCTV footage reveals an image of the pair, Harper realizes she knows the woman almost as well as she knows herself: it's her estranged daughter, Ruby.
Desperate to reach Ruby before the police find her, Harper knows her deception might just cost her everything. But if it means choosing between her daughter or her career, Harper knows there's no question. She'll protect her daughter no matter what. But what Harper doesn't know is that someone--or something--else is searching for Ruby and the little girl, too. Waiting to bring them home . . . once and for all.
Steeped in local legend and exploring the depths of what it means to be a mother, Melanie Golding's newest novel asks how far we'll go to save the ones we love.
What attracted me to this book:
I absolutely loved the mix of mystery, folklore and horror in Melanie Golding’s debut novel LITTLE DARLINGS, so I was extremely excited to see what she would come up with in her new novel THE HIDDEN.
The book begins with a little toddler being found abandoned in a seaside town, only to be claimed a short while later by a flustered woman claiming to be her mother. In a parallel development, a man is found half dead in a bathtub in his apartment, drugged and with a serious head wound. How could these two events possibly be connected? This is a puzzle to solve for DS Joana Harper, the detective we first met in LITTLE DARLINGS, who will soon discover that she has a very personal connection to one of the people involved in her latest case.
I admit that the book was off to a bit of a slow start for me, and I was struggling to connect not only the different timelines and events, but also the cast of characters, who were all just a little bit odd. A man performing yoga in front of his window and the young depressed woman who watches him from a nearby apartment and falls in love with him. An old woman who claims that she heard a child playing in the flat upstairs, which belongs to a bachelor living with his elderly mother. Ever so slowly the threads and multiple POVs were woven together to form a more cohesive picture, and I became more invested in the mystery as it progressed.
It wasn’t until about halfway into the book that I realised how cleverly the author had woven multiple elements into her dark tale: some folklore passed down through generation of island folk, some urban myths, a serial killer mystery, a police procedural and some family drama. What had started innocent enough – with characters who all seemed more odd than sinister – soon took a more menacing tone and created an undercurrent of danger and darkness that ultimately completely sucked me in.
I love the way Golding uses mythology as the basis for her stories, exploring the possibility that there is an element of truth in the old tales that we choose to ignore or simply deny. And yet a lot is left to the interpretation of the reader, which makes for an intriguing and mysterious read. Like Ruby herself, I felt constantly torn between my brain trying to find logical explanations, whilst the purer, more primitive side of me just wanted to go with the magical elements. Like a child, I felt myself drawn to the folk tales Golding includes in the opening to her chapters, and it awakened the inner child in me, listening in fascination to an old person sharing a whispered fairy tale.
In summary, if you enjoy old folk tales that blend into reality, creating a much deeper and darker mystery than your average police procedural, then you can’t go wrong picking up THE HIDDEN. Be assured that the book picks up pace after the first 1/3 or so, and all the seemingly disjointed threads will weave together to form an intriguing tale. I have been intrigued by stories of selkies and island folk since childhood and loved the way my rational brain fought my more primitive emotional side the whole way – and I am still thinking about some aspects of the book long after reading it. Intriguing, mysterious and dark.
Thank you to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.