Are you in the mood for a slow-burning, chilling ghost story? Then The Hiding Place is one to add to your TBR list. Sometimes the most effective scary stories are the ones that take their time to build up the atmosphere and use the power of suggestion to maximum effect. Which is exactly what happens here.
Opening sentence: There was no signal.
Nell, her husband Chris and her 12-year old stepdaughter, Maude go back to Nell’s hometown at the seaside for a family event they’ve been invited to. Chris – unfamiliar with the town – rents them a large, imposing house for their stay.
A house with a history
Named the Elder House, from its lack of decorative finish to big scale and relatively isolated setting (it’s in an area that’s now mainly holiday lets, so a lot of the surrounding houses are empty), it conveys a sense of menace from the get-go.
It turns out the house does indeed have a rather chequered history, as Nell and Maude soon discover. Maude becomes sucked into the pull of the house; things get moved and go missing, there are some suspicious marks carved into the wooden beams and both Maude and Nell hear the tapping of little feet running through the house…
‘Do you believe in them – witches?’ asked Maude, rubbing at her hand absent-mindedly. ‘Well,’ said Gina, ‘I do and I don’t.’
Mothers & daughters
Alongside the Gothic, creepy story, the plot also looks at various types of mother/daughter relationships. From the central Nell and Maude stepdaughter one to secondary characters Evie who is dealing with her overbearing mother and Kym, who is very close to her grandmother.
The small-town setting easily allows for all the character’s lives to interweave and adds a rich backstory to the plot when you understand just how they do all relate.
I will admit that in the middle, some sections felt a little slow and I did want the reveals to come at me a little faster, but on the flip side, the slow burn was what gave The Hiding Place its heady atmosphere, so it depends how you like your Gothic reads. I was fully engrossed in the story until the last page though – and suitably creeped out too.
- Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC;
- Get your copy of The Hiding Place here;
- Published by Zaffre 14th October 2021;
- 400 pages;
- My rating: