It is certainly challenging to find a way into a crime plot that has not been attempted before, but in The Hidden Things, Jamie Mason has managed to do just that. Teenager Carly Liddell is attacked as she enters her home one afternoon and her ability to fend off the assailant is captured on security camera footage from within her home – something that neither she nor or mother was even aware had been installed. As the kick-ass footage goes viral on social media outlets, Carly’s stepfather becomes concerned, not for the safety of his family, but for the exposure of a secret he has maintained for years. Because that security footage also shows that hanging in the hallway of their suburban home is a priceless masterpiece – a painting missing since the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum heist years earlier.
The exposure of this painting sets into motion a plot that unites a collection of disparate desires for different characters: some want to protect the painting (or themselves), some want to obtain the artwork for profit, and others are just trying to reclaim their lives and livelihoods in the wake of past mistakes. And at the center of this mix sits Carly Liddell – a girl who never asked for the spotlight, but who is determined to assert her own agency to keep herself and her loved ones safe – at any cost.
With The Hidden Things, Jamie Mason has pulled off the difficult task of writing a crime novel that reads more like a bildungsroman – a coming-of-age story in which the criminal elements are simply a compelling backdrop for the evolution of character. Mason’s pièce de résistance is how she is able to craft it in such as way that fans of both storytelling methods come away from the pages of the book satisfied and richer for having experienced the other.
Multiple points-of-view make for a complex and thrilling reading journey. The motives of every character are pinpoint accurate, with a deep understanding of human nature and a way of honestly reflecting those desires – and flaws – within the context of character and plot. Certainly every reader will latch on to different characters for a myriad of reasons, but it is hard to image any crime fiction reader not rooting for Carly throughout the entire adventure. Carly comes across as a mixture of a typical teenager with a huge helping of Nancy Drew, a dash of Harriet the Spy, and maybe even some of Alice (Liddell) who inspired Wonderland. More than any other character, Carly changes as the novel progresses – each new development requiring her to re-evaluate, negotiate, and maturate – and this character development is what makes the book so memorable.
Jamie Mason’s gift for writing is undeniable. She crafts sentences as though they are works of art themselves. Exquisite word choice – both lyrical and functional – will cause readers to savor the reading experience here. In terms of plot, The Hidden Things will make readers want to rush to the finish, but the beauty of the words on the page require slowing down to appreciate every moment for as long as possible. In the end, this becomes a stand-alone that readers will return to again and again.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.