The Hiding Place
English teacher Joe Thorne has returned to his hometown, Arnhill, a village built around a now-closed mine, which he’d vowed to leave forever. He’s used unsavory methods to attain his position; at the same time, few were clamoring to take it as the previous English teacher, Julia Morton, killed her son, Ben, and then herself scandalizing the small town.
Joe learned that young Ben had disappeared shortly before his murder, but he returned changed, acting strangely, smelling foul, and hardly speaking. The same thing happened to Joe’s younger sister when he was fifteen. His return may have something to do with history repeating itself–or with the 30,000 pounds he owes the Fatman for gambling debts. Joe’s old gang, Stephen Hurst, Marie Gibson, and Nick Fletcher certainly aren’t pleased to find he’s returned. Beth Scattergood, the new art teacher, is Joe’s only ally, but she has her own secret reasons for moving to Arnhill.
The Hiding Place alternates between the present day and 1992, when Joe was in high school, to suspensefully unravel the mysteries Joe and his friends are hiding as Joe tries to make good on his debt to the Fatman who has made it clear he is out of chances. Joe himself is a frustrating main character. He is sardonic and thinks himself witty, knowing he is making bad choices as he makes them which is maddening. Beth was my favorite character and I wish the story had more of her! Some of the secondary characters were surprising–a vicious female enforcer, a manipulative cancer patient with a master plan, invisible observers who provide Joe information, and a bully who sacrificed for love.
I don’t want to say to much about the plot, but The Hiding Place obviously draws from classics in the genre in what I believe is a homage rather than a cheap copy and takes a supernatural turn I wasn’t expecting. This part of the novel wasn’t as interesting to me and led to some inconsistencies. More interesting were the relationships among the characters although unfortunately these were secondary to the plot. Many of the characters are bullied, and these scenes are difficult to take, and while no one should have to endure such treatment, the bullied characters are resilient and complex.
Although I didn’t like this as well as CJ Tudor’s previous book The Chalk Man, I did get sucked into it and found it a quick and easy read that I quickly devoured despite its shortcomings.
Thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.