Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Didn’t foresee that twisted ending

hiddenpictures

Well, I picked up Hidden Pictures without virtually any knowledge aforethought and I had a slight feeling of ‘is this going to be a bit gimmicky’ given the angle with the pictures, etc – I soon found out that wasn’t going to be the case and the pictures in fact added a sinister note as the images they depicted became steadily more shocking.  Within barely a few pages I found myself hooked and a few chapters down the line I couldn’t put this one down.  It’s brilliantly twisted in a way that I didn’t expect and I feel like Rekulak just literally led me down the garden path with his cunning and devious  plot.

As the story begins we meet Mallory Quinn.  Mallory had a bright future ahead of her until personal tragedy struck and she instead went down the line of strong painkillers eventually becoming addicted to stronger drugs until finally seeking help at rehab.  A year and a half later Mallory is coming out of rehab and needs a job and a place to live so when her sponsor lines her up a live-in nanny position for a pre school boy, in the very well-to-do area of Spring Brook, New Jersey – she is more than happy.  Her new employers are the perfect couple, high earners, beautiful, amazing house with pool, clean living and very supportive of Mallory.  Their little boy Teddy immediately clicks with Mallory and so she moves into the small pool side cottage and starts work.

At first, everything seemed ideal.  The days pass in a dreamlike state of playing, exploring the woodlands and swimming in the pool.  One small issue is that Teddy has an imaginary friend who seems to be encouraging him to draw pictures.  Over the weeks the pictures become increasingly detailed and depict what can only be assumed is a murder scene.  Teddy starts to become more introverted, he doesn’t like to mix with other children and he also begins to keep his drawings secret – but, mysteriously, they always seem to find their way into Mallory’s hands.

On the face of it this feels very much like a typical ghost story.  The haunted forest, the little boy helping the ghost to find closure, the history behind the pool house itself which seems to have something of a reputation and that strange sixth sense of something always watching.  However, this takes a very unusual turn that I really didn’t see coming, even though, with hindsight, the author was clearly leaving little clues and building the tension.

What really helped for me is that I liked Mallory.  She’s a young woman with a grim past who is trying hard to get back on her feet.  I liked the way she cared for Teddy and stood up for what she thought was right and she worked hard to stay on the straight and narrow, even starting the beginning of a relationship with a local gardener.  Now, given her past she does spin a few tall tales, she wants to fit in, her history is complicated and she’s just enjoying the lifestyle and having the attention of a good looking young man who doesn’t know about her past.  Obviously, this does give you little issues, like, is she really a reliable narrator?  And, in fact this is something that the author does really well because he begins to drop little incidents that make you begin to distrust everyone.  Pretty soon cracks are beginning to appear in this perfect, picture postcard family and before you know it everyone feels like they have something to hide.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, the ending does go a little bit crazy but I confess I didn’t mind one little bit because I was seriously enjoying this one and was desperate to see how things would pan out.  The pictures, well, they didn’t work quite as well for me as I would have liked but I think that’s a technical issue  related to the settings of my e-reader more than anything else so rather than having the shock value that was the aim I found myself having to piece  things together a little bit.  Again, I didn’t find this an issue, it may have lessened the ‘wow’ factor a little but in some ways having to root around and piece things together played into the mystery for me.  I have to say, I think it’s a great concept and I think it would work really well if this story is adapted to the big screen.

Overall this was a fast and entertaining read.  Thrilling, creepy and a little disturbing it really was a tricky plot with subtle supernatural elements and an ending that I simply didn’t foresee.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars