The Hidden by Melanie Golding

Posted On 2 November 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Even better than the first

The Hidden

So, Little Darlings was (I think) Melanie Golding’s debut and it absolutely caught my imagination with it’s compelling and strange blend of mystery and dark magical realism.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, the writing was excellent, the story was tense and creepy, and Golding excels at relationships and mental anguish.  As you might imagine when I saw that Golding’s next novel took inspiration from selkie mythology to say I was bouncing up and down with excitement is something of an understatement.  I had a serious case of ‘grabby hands’ for this book and I can start this review by saying not only did this exceed my expectations but it also wowed me even more than the first.  I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next.

The Hidden is a wonderful collection of threads that come together in quite possibly the most satisfying way I’ve read for a while.  We begin the story with a little girl lost, or abandoned, in a small seaside village.  We have a man found in his flat, suspected dead.  Meanwhile, we read of a woman who seems to abandon life by running out into the sea and yet another woman who races against time to an unknown destination.  Now, all these events take place fairly early on in the story but at this point I don’t want to give anything more of the plot away.  Instead, I will talk about the characters, the writing and the overall feel of the book.

Funnily enough we have a character making a return appearance in this book.  DS Joanna Harper is looking into the investigation involving the man left for dead in the bath of his flat.  I would point out for readers that you don’t need to read the first book in order to read this one – although I did like the character and was very happy to read more about her (and I would certainly encourage you to pick up Little Darlings).  The man in the bath is called Gregor who appears to be a serious young businessman who keeps himself to himself, however, DS Harper’s investigation soon begins to uncover things that indicate that Gregor did not live alone but had a wife and daughter, both now missing.  Finally, we have a young woman, estranged from her family, lonely and isolated and desperate for friendship.  (I can’t help wondering whether Joanna will make further appearances. in a series of thrillers that take inspiration from the supernatural – please let it be so).

I confess that having started this review with no wish to give away spoilers I find myself in the difficult position of not wanting to delve too deeply into the characters. What I will say instead is this book contains strong family themes as well as domestic violence (both physical and mental – not gratuitous at all) . It takes a look at possible mental illness and delusion.  We have a seriously nasty character among the pages here who is an intensely plausible sociopath of despicable proportions who has no compunction about taking the life of others. Okay, I will say no more about the characters.  My lips are sealed.

The writing.  I just loved it.  Golding has the ability to create both atmosphere and tension to such an extent that I found myself sitting bolt upright on the chair at certain points.  I was literally gripped as she delivered the kind of fear that compels you to shout at the characters as you fear for their safety.  On top of this she’s taken an ancient myth and created a contemporary thriller that is not only satisfying in terms of the mystery and police elements but at the same time delivers a real sense of authenticity in terms of the original stories.  She treads a fine line between ‘did that really happen or did I imagine it’ that I think will appeal to readers of both crime and fantasy.  I hesitate to say this (because I don’t love comparisons as a rule) but in some respects her style is reminiscent of a strange cross between DuMaurier and King because of her ability to conjure credible characters and heart pounding fear.  (To be clear, I’m not comparing this to any of the above mentioned authors’ works – just a certain flair here and there that really caught me by surprise in the most satisfying way and brought them to mind).

Put simply, this was an excellent read that grabbed my attention from the first few pages and from there kept me glued to the book into the early hours of the morning.  I’m not sure I can really do this justice, all I can hope is that I’ve given you a brief teaser of what’s contained within, enough to convince you to give it a shot.

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

My rating 5 stars

Wondrous Words and Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Hidden by Melanie Golding

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Hidden by Melanie Golding.  I loved Little Darlings and so have been waiting to see what the author would come up with next and The Hidden has an excellent description:

Melanie Golding’s newest folkloric suspense is a spine-tingling twist on Celtic mythology.

One dark December night, in a small seaside town, a little girl is found abandoned. When her mother finally arrives, authorities release the pair, believing it to be an innocent case of a toddler running off.

Gregor, a seemingly single man, is found bludgeoned and left for dead in his apartment, but the discovery of children’s toys raises more questions than answers.

Every night, Ruby gazes into Gregor’s apartment, leading to the discovery of his secret family: his unusually silent daughter and his mentally unstable wife, Constance, who insists that she is descended from the mythological Selkies. She begs Ruby to aid in finding the sealskin that Gregor has hidden from her, making it impossible to return to her people.

DS Joanna Harper’s investigation into Gregor’s assault leads her to CCTV footage of the mother-daughter pair from town. Harper realizes she knows the woman almost as well as she knows herself: it’s her estranged daughter, Ruby. No matter the depth of Ruby’s involvement, she knows she will choose her daughter over her career.

Steeped in local legend and exploring the depths of what it means to be a mother, Melanie Golding’s newest novel is a lyrical and atmospheric folktale for the modern age.

Expected publication : November 2021

WWW

This meme was first created by Kathy over at Bermuda Onion Blog and has now been adopted by Elza Reads.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered, or spotlight words you love.

No rules just enjoy and for further info check out Elza Reads.

This week my word is:

TARADIDDLE

A taradiddle is a petty lie or pretentious nonsense.

What a lovely sounding word it is. I had a little look into the word.  It may have first been used in the 18th Century although the origins aren’t known.  There are a few myths out there about where and when the word came into use but it appears that these rumours are ‘taradiddles’ in themselves.

If you break the word up –

Tara – is an exclamation; and

Diddle – can be to cheat or swindle

So, put the two together and you have a cheating exclamation!  Which could be a little lie if you think about it.

Whilst I was looking into this I also came across an interesting little snippet for Harry Potter fans.  Apparently the word was used by Cornelius Fudge in JK Rowlings Order of the Phoenix “‘We haven’t got time to listen to more taradiddles, I’m afraid, Dumbledore.’”

Anyway, the book I was reading when came across this word was The Drowned City (which I enjoyed, my review here) by KJ Maitland:

Drowned City

Friday Face Off : Longest Night

FFO

Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – I’ll be updating the list next week to include themes for 20202, if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

Longest Night –  a dark and foreboding cover

This week I’ve gone for a fairly recent book that I read. A compelling story that takes a mother’s worst nightmare and combines it with old wives tales and fairy folklore to achieve a creepy and sinister tale of child abduction.  Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. Here is my review and the covers:

It’s strange the way that the most innocent things can be given a sinister feel, for example a nappy pin, booties or a pram.

This week my favourite is:

Little1

It was a choice between this or the pram.  But there is a very insidious feel to this cover that isn’t immediately apparent. When you really look at it the title is being invaded by the creeping branches and thorns.  It gives me the chills, although the lonely pram with the red swirling banner is also very effective.

Which is your favourite?

I’ve included events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share then let me know in the comments).  I also have a list prepared for 2020 and so will set up a separate page soon for forthcoming themes.  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment.

Next week –  A cover that is glittery or sparkling

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ or one of your favourite covers) (I’ve added some new themes – some of these are slightly different, in order to avoid too much repetition I’m trying to make the themes more of a suggestion that everyone can interpret how they like

2019

27th December – the festive season – a cover that is glittery or sparkling

(2020 – January is Vintage SciFi month so I’ll be including possible themes to take that on board.

3rd January – New Beginnings – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

10th January – vintage sci fi – “Live long and prosper.”

17th January – Horizon – “Your “beautiful” ship killed its crew, Doctor.”

24th January – Chinese New Year – Year of the Rat

31st January – First Contact – “Ack, Ack, Ack, we come in peace”

7th February – Lion- “Is that a lion with horns and a pitchfork?”

14th February – romantic – “thus with a kiss I die”

21st February – meringue – the puffy dress?

28th February – Leap Year – One Ring to rule them all – A cover with a ring

6th March – Skeleton – them bones, them bones, them dry bones…

13th March – Exotic – ‘That which yields, is not always weak”

20th March – Brown – a cover or covers that are brown

27th March – Freebie – choose one of your favourite covers

3rd April Fools – a trick of the eye – a cover that is more than meets the eye

10th April – Moody – a cover that is atmospheric,

17th April – out of focus – double vision or all a blur

24th April – Armour – ‘“Pretty armour doesn’t make a warrior.”

1st May – Canine – “And then there were cats, thought Dog.:

8th May – graphic novel cover – “Love belongs to Desire, and Desire is always cruel”

15th May – pink – as pink as cotton candy – any cover that is pink

22nd May – Sorrow – a cover that makes you feel sad

29th May – Silhouette – an island, a person, anything you like

5th June – Flight – any type of flight – to flee, to fly

12th June – The bodice ripper – exactly as it seems

19th June – Time – time waits for no one

26th June – Windows – windows to the soul?

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

LittleDarlings2.jpgLittle Darlings is an unusual book to review, not least of all because of the possibility of spoilers, but also because it’s a slippery sucker that’s difficult to pin down.  Is it a dark twisted fairy tale, a mystery or a case of one woman’s journey through post-natal depression?  What I can say is this was a creepy and compelling read, maybe not exactly what I was expecting when I picked it up but nonetheless it was thoroughly gripping and at the same time an excellent exploration of the doubts and fears of being a new mother.

Basically, this is like all your worst nightmares coming true as a new mother and it’s really well written to be honest.  We make the acquaintance of Lauren.  Pregnant and expecting twins she’s starting to discover little cracks in her relationship, possibly not the best timing but then the babies decide to put in an appearance and all is forgotten.  Of course Lauren is exhausted and sore and struggling to cope with two newborn babies with very little support – her husband certainly seems only too happy to relinquish responsibility at the drop of a hat.  So, you can imagine, that when Lauren calls the police from hospital, hysterical and talking of a woman trying to steal her babies the doctors immediately write her claims off as lack of sleep.

All except one detective, Jo Harper.  Jo has ghosts that haunt her from the past, that she still feels remorse over and that lead her to examine things in greater depth.  I’m not saying that Jo believes Lauren but at the same time she doesn’t totally knock her claims on the head, although her boss refuses to sign off the expense needed to investigate events which leaves her in a rather tricky situation.

So, let’s talk about the other woman.  Lauren wakes up in the hospital late at night and can hear singing coming from the next cubicle, when she peeps inside an old woman is crouched over a basket, seemingly where twins are lying.  The woman is bedraggled, unkempt and smells of the river.  She makes Lauren an offer, she’ll take one of Lauren’s boys and leave one of hers in his place and if Lauren refuses this offer she threatens to take both.  Then things turn really nasty and that’s when Lauren calls the police.  Of course, the old woman can’t be found, no images show up on the hospital’s CCTV and so the episode is put down to over exhaustion and frayed nerves.

Now, I can’t really tell you too much more about the plot, Lauren returns home and from there things go from bad to worse.  That’s all I’ll say.

My thoughts.  The writing is excellent.  I felt exhausted myself just reading about Lauren’s struggles and fears for her twins.  She has so very little support and as mentioned above her husband takes absolutely no responsibility for the twins whatsoever.  Okay, he’s at work and he has to be able to wake up in the morning but he felt very cold as a character and I found him incredibly irritating, not to mention he had something of a roving eye.  There was the awful tension that just increased little by little of Lauren not coping, becoming very insular, of everyone starting to look more closely at her – you had this horrible feeling that everything was going to go awfully wrong, and of course it did, but when things finally come crashing down boy oh boy do they come crashing!

I mentioned above that this isn’t quite what I was expecting.  I don’t mean this negatively, I just think I imagined there would be more of the fae elements with the whole changeling aspect to the story whereas this comes across much more as a contemporary story with a slight element of magical realism.  Regardless, of that it’s a very good read, dark and sinuous in nature with just enough things thrown into the mix to make you wonder.  In fact that’s another thing that I thought was really well done – the way the author makes you doubt things yourself as the story develops casting suspicion on people and scattering red herrings around.

The other thing that also came across to me was Lauren’s sense of, not just isolation, which was massively the case during parts of the story, or of the extreme tiredness she felt due to sleepless nights but also this overwhelming fear of not coping and being very much aware of this huge responsibility that she had taken on board.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have anything much to say, I think if you read a lot of mystery/thrillers then you’ll probably be able to pick holes in the police procedural elements of this and if you read a lot of fantasy then you might find this a little on the light side speculatively speaking, but, I didn’t mind either of those and thought the two came together very well.

Overall, I found this a good read, quite dark and creepy and definitely tense.

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