In the former colliery town of Arnhill in Nottinghamshire, a teacher brutally murders her son and then kills herself.
“It is the sort of village that glowers at you when you arrive and spits on the ground in disgust as you leave.”
We meet another teacher, our protagonist, Joe Thorne, who takes over her job at the school and also moves into the cottage where the murder-suicide took place. It is a home-coming of sorts for Joe. He grew up in Arnhill, though his was the very opposite of a happy childhood.
When he was fifteen, his little sister Annie (accompanied by her doll, Abbie-Eyes) followed Joe everywhere. Then she disappeared for twenty-four hours. When she came back, she was never the same again. The sweet little girl that he doted on was forever gone. A short time later, he was involved in a car accident that shattered his leg and mortally wounded his father and little sister.
Now, twenty-five years later, he doesn’t have much to show for his life. He likes teaching, but he has proven that he likes drink and gambling more. As a result, he is heavily in debt to some very bad people.
Flashbacks to the year 1992 when Joe was fifteen show he was in a gang back then. A gang with a sadistic and manipulative leader named Stephen Hurst. The teenage boys had one terrifically traumatic experience that marked all of their lives in one way or another…
Now, Stephen Hurst is a councilman and on the school’s Board of Governors. This is particularly problematic for Joe, as Hurst’s son is now the school bully and seems to be following in his father’s footsteps.
The word ‘atmospheric‘ is bandied about in book reviews a lot. Yet this novel was the epitome of atmospheric. The town of Arnhill was almost a character unto itself. In fact the author did such a fine job of evoking the underlying menace, foreboding, bleakness, and despair, that I read faster just to get out of there. Creepy doesn’t begin to cover it.
The book began with a graphic crime scene, which at first made it feel like it might be a police procedural, but that was not at all the case.
Unlike the author’s debut novel “The Chalk Man” which I loved, this one had a supernatural element that I remain unsure about…
Themes of futility, guilt, desperation, grief, and bullying pepper the storyline. If you’re look for an uplifting read, this book is not for you.
The characterization was skillful, yet I didn’t bond with the protagonist the way I wanted to. Also, I wish the book ended without the epilogue. This opinion is one I’m sure that others will disagree with.
The ending had two twists that I did NOT see coming and that is always appreciated by me.
In summation, I DO recommend this thriller to those who don’t mind a supernatural element in their reading. I believe it will be relished by many, especially those who are fond of the works of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and the like. It made me feel uncomfortable… but any book that can make you ‘feel’ like that has got to be the sign of a talented author.
“The Hiding Place” was published in the United Kingdom under the title “The Taking of Annie Thorne“.C. J. TUDOR lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and young daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Hiding Place is her second novel.