Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Hidden – Sarah Pinborough

So much going on, so few pages to lash it all together! We have a woman who wakes up with amnesia and a new lease on life, a string of gruesome homicides, and a Detective trying to piece it all together. How does it all fit? Some Demonic ritual? Possession? Or something even more horrifying?

From what I understand, this was Pinborough’s first novel, and it is a very good book, though not as polished as her later attempts. This story for some reason reminded me a lot of “Hellbound Heart” by Barker, though the pick at your brain social commentary isn’t included in Pinborough’s novel. There is a decent amount of gore in this book, however most of it is the aftermath of the actual occurrence so it is not as gory as it could have been. For those of you who read horror novels for the nakedness, there is a touch of that, though it is not explicit.

What makes this book weaker than her following novels is the use of what feel like “cheap” tactics to get the point across. First we have the Diary that pretty much tells the Detective all the background he needs, then we have the psychic/medium who can explain the rest, and we have the Detective’s dead wife speaking through the medium to fill us in on everything else that we might have missed. It’s like a perfect storm of information to make sure that our mystery solver doesn’t miss any details. A second weakness in this book is the lack of time passing, at times it seems that only days have passed, then it is implied that months have gone by. In the end you can’t be sure if Mike and Rachel have been dating for two weeks or five months… and you can’t be sure if the murders are happening only days apart or months apart. In this book, Pinborough really hasn’t come into her own with the multidimensional characters yet. Most of them feel paper thin with little to no motivation for their actions. Still, with these weaknesses, this is a strong first novel and reading this you can see why the publisher signed her on for a few more.

This is a fairly quick read that is entertaining though doesn’t push the envelope in any fashion. If you are just looking for a fun night of mindless entertainment this is a great time waster, if you are in the mood to be truly frightened or have your mind expanded, then look elsewhere. There isn’t anything new in this novel and there really isn’t any deeper meaning behind what is going on in the story. Actually the diary, though it feels like a cheap tactic for the writer to have used, is one of the more interesting parts of the book. Elizabeth comes across as the only multi-dimensional character in this novel through the diary, even though we never really encounter her in the book as her true self.

A note to those of you who have read Pinborough’s other novels: most of her books read as very Americanized British horror, often times you forget that they even take place in Great Britain other than the occasional British slang that creeps in. This book is much more British all around, though not to the point where you question what is being said or get lost. (for example: I have NEVER understood the British term “Pull the other one” and no one has been able to explain what it means to me). On the whole this is a decent book that is worth the read if you don’t have anything else lying around. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy it or track it down, but if you come across it, give it a whirl.

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