"The Hidden" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Crooked Lane Books

the hidden melanie golding poster large

Written by Melanie Golding
2021, 325 pages, Fiction
Released on 9th November 2021


Crooked Lane Books have been on a fine run of form in recent months, releasing an impressive number of very convincing dark thrillers, including A Dark and Secret Place (Jen Williams), Sins of the Mother (August Norman), It Will Just Be Us (Jo Kaplan) and The Monsters We Make (Kali White), all of which have very favourably reviewed on Horror DNA. Melanie Golding adds another to the stack with The Hidden, which is being released in the UK around the same time as The Replacement. Golding’s debut novel Little Darlings features the same English detective, DS Joanne Harper, however, you can read this standalone story without having tackled its predecessor.

Both novels are dark thrillers rather than horror, but they are similar in that they have folklore supernatural themes bubbling in the background. The otherworldly aspect does not dominate either novel and the investigations are presented as straight police procedurals, with a vague sense that there might be something darker going on, which grows as the stories progress. However, they are written in such a clever way, with fiendishly convoluted plots, that if the supernatural is an immediate blackball for certain thriller readers, the majority is almost certain to overlook it.

The Hidden has a multi-stranded plot with many characters and more than one timeline and because of this, I would recommend reading it very carefully, as it is very easy to get confused. At certain points I found myself getting perplexed by how a few of the protagonists connected to each other and reread certain sequences. However, it is worth sticking with, as it is one of those novels where very little is what it initially seems. The action opens with two distinct police incidents in the present timeline, both of which have complex backstories in the flashback sequences. Like with the best crime fiction, the plot takes its time laying all the cards on the table and throws numerous curveballs whilst the reader has a lot of fun attempting to bring the strands together again.

Although there are other characters, the present-tense story is dominated by the detective Joanne Harper, who also has a complex family and personal life which play a key part in the story. She is called to a block of flats where a man, barely alive, has been found in a bath with his skull smashed. Thinking they have uncovered his identity, whilst they search for the culprit, they dig into the life of Gregor, a seemingly single man, but soon unanswered questions have the detective twitching. Why does he have child toys in his flat when records show he is childless? The detective smells a rat. Interestingly, at various points, the story also drifts into the head of the man in the coma and the mystery thickens.

Part of the fun of crime novels is figuring out how they piece together and the second main strand takes in another police investigation after a little girl is found abandoned in a shop in a small seaside town. The social work and police are called and soon the mother appears and after a brief investigation, the authorities release the pair, believing it to be an innocent case of a toddler running off. However, things are never that simple and the mother of the little girl leads the story in another fascinating direction. I could say a lot more about the plot, but it would take the review into spoiler territory and there is much more going on than what I have implied. Actually, other reviews of The Hidden give much too much away, so watch out for spoilers, particularly in regard to the potentially supernatural story.

The Hidden has many high points, including the backstory of the villain and the development of tension when the plot thickens and how the various pieces of the puzzle fall into place. However, Ruby, one of the other main characters, is naive beyond the point of stupidity and was not as well-drawn as the policewoman.

Perhaps your opinion of this book will hinge on how successfully The Hidden modernises an old folktale. Some readers will not buy it for a second, but for the majority it will be taken as a grounded, lyrical, atmospheric, and believable exploration of an old legend. And on another level, for more than one character, a deeper look into what it means to be a mother.


Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
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Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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