Trigger warning for domestic violence.
Ruby is a special person. She has a big heart, but is haunted by family secrets and loneliness. Unfortunately, she’s also prickly—prickly enough that it’s hard for people to learn about the kindness and loyalty underneath Ruby’s apparent standoffishness. Everyone gets Ruby wrong. And when Ruby gets caught up in sinister events in The Hidden, by Melanie Golding, it means that a lot of people end up surprised while they chase her across Great Britain.
Ruby is one of the narrators of this odd genre-hybrid. The other is her putative sister, a detective named Joanna. On Ruby’s side, The Hidden is a story of rescue and folklore come to life. On Joanna’s, it’s a manhunt involving a missing child. For us readers, it takes several chapters and some backtracking to find out what’s really going on. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about this book at first. I worried that it would try to do too many things and The Hidden would be a shallow experience or that the two genres wouldn’t mesh together enough to be a cohesive narrative. Thankfully, The Hidden worked for me.
So, just like the narrative, let’s backtrack. One day, Ruby is caught spying on a very attractive neighbor doing yoga in his flat. The next couple of days sees Ruby and the man doing the dance of the socially awkward who are into each other. I thought it was cute, too, until Ruby accepts an invitation over to yoga man’s apartment only to find a toddler and a woman who really, really doesn’t want to be in that apartment. This is strange, but not as strange as the woman’s fixation on a coat she believes yoga man has hidden away from her. When we join the narrative, some months later, Joanna and other police officers break into yoga man’s apartment and find him near death in an overflowing bathtub. This is strange, but not as strange as what happens when yoga man wakes up from his coma and violently escapes the hospital.
There is a lot going on in The Hidden‘s plot, but what really made this book work for me was the attention the author gave to the shifting psychologies of the characters. So many characters flip from good to bad, dubious to heroic, rulebound to rebel in totally believable arcs that I was kept guessing right up until the last pages. This book was a wild, fascinating ride—although, I’m curious to see if the combination of genres works for other readers, too.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.