Review: A couple in a troubled marriage decide to get away from their everyday routine, to see if their relationship is worth saving, only to find themselves in a struggle for their very lives in The Hidden, a novel of suspense by Bill Pronzini.
Shelby Hunter and Jay Maclin — "separate identities, linked by marriage but with a gap between them that could never be bridged" — travel to California's rugged northern coastline to stay in a vacation home owned by their friends. They visit a neighboring home on their first night there to borrow supplies, after a storm knocks out their power, meeting Claire and Brian Lomax, his sister Paula and her husband Gene. But the open hostility between the two couples drive Shelby and Jay back to their house, where they wait out the storm. Meanwhile, the authorities are reporting that the "Coastline Killer" has struck again, this time quite close to where Shelby and Jay are staying, giving pause to their plans for a quiet week.
There's not much suspense in The Hidden, a thinly plotted novel filled with clichéd characters and situations: a violent storm that knocks down a tree, preventing Shelby and Jay from leaving; a strong woman (Shelby) who fears the dark; a weak man (Jay) trying to overcome his own physical and mental insecurities; and, yes, an unidentified serial killer on the loose. Attempts at misdirection tend to fall flat, and about the only surprise at the end is that there is no unexpected twist … excepting the really rather peculiar epilogue, which almost seems written for a different book entirely. On the plus side, it's relatively short at just over 200 pages and written in such a way that there's nothing to slow down the pacing.
It's easy to see The Hidden as a the basis for a cable network mystery movie of the week, full of complicated relationships, a few tense situations, some really terrific coastline visuals, and, of course, a serial killer. But as a novel of suspense it's a bit of a disappointment.
Acknowledgment: Walker and Co. provided an ARC of The Hidden for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Hidden: California
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The Hidden by Bill Pronzini
Publication Date: November 2010
List Price: $24.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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