Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Review: Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak

by Jason Rekulak
Release Date: May 10, 2022
2022 Flatiron Books
Kindle & ARC Hardcover Editions; 373 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250819345
Audiobook: B09GCKQGYG
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell.

Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare: trees, rabbits, balloons. But one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body.

My Thoughts
Hidden Pictures was an interesting book, and I will definitely say that I thought the pictures were the highlight of the story.  I started off reading this in Kindle format, but then switched over to the Hardcover ARC edition because the quality of the pictures was better and wanted to spend time going over them in more detail.  The overall story was enjoyable, but this was definitely not a horror novel, more of a mystery, and I did have some issues with plot and character development.

I rather liked Mallory as a main character. Having come out of rehab a few months before, she was still unsure of what life held for her and still unsure of her resistance to temptations, so a job like this seemed perfect. She wasn't silly or naive, and she took the time to question odd behaviours and worked with her bosses on how best to deal with things which showed thoughtfulness on the part of the author as so often the main character does something stupid and you just shake your head and wonder why the author would make a main character do something like that. Overall, I don't think any of the characters were fully fleshed out, and the dad's behaviour towards the end of the book made no sense to me whatsoever as there was no build up, no development, not even minute signs, for what happened. Just turned completely 180 and I was not impressed.

For the first half of the book, I was completely immersed in the story and thought the pictures added this lovely, eerie feel to the story.  To be honest, the pictures were the only creepy thing about the book and even then I don't think they were horrifying, not enough to call this book a horror novel.  I loved them though, and went back over them a few times to see if I missed any clues inserted in the pictures that were vital to the story.  But then, Mallory questioned one little thing about Teddy about half-way through and for whatever reason, it flipped something in my brain, and I figured out the story.  And then the episode with the dad, and that was it for me. What was a really good story took a turn and suddenly, I felt like I was in a completely different story with different characters.  It was not a good feeling.

Hidden Pictures definitely had potential, but the ending was disappointing as the character development, especially in the parents, was extremely weak, and the plot development, especially the denouement, was a bit thin.  I did think the first half was much stronger than the second half, and had this delightfully creepy vibe, and the pictures added a nice supernatural element that added just the right atmosphere.  Unfortunately, this atmosphere did not carry through to to the second half, and the ending left me disappointed; this was definitely not a horror novel, but more of a mystery novel despite the very brief supernatural element.  However, there was enough potential in this book that I would be interested in reading an actual horror novel by this author.