I picked up These Things Hidden at Half Price Books this summer because I read Heather Gudenkauf’s debut mystery novel, The Weight of Silence, a year or so ago and liked it enough to want to read more. The Weight of Silence was a mystery about two little girls who go missing from their small town homes in Iowa…it was an easy read (though the writing was a little basic), had a good amount of tension and wasn’t too predictable. Unfortunately I can’t find as many positive things to say about These Things Hidden.
In These Things Hidden, high-school-golden-girl Allison Glen, now age 22, is released from a 10-year prison sentence five years early. She attempts to mend her broken relationships with her younger sister and parents, find a job and think about her future, in a small town where everyone knows “what she did.” Most readers would immediately wonder what sent Allison, “star soccer player and college scholarship winner,” to prison, right? Well, Gudenkauf keeps this a secret for over the first 100 pages, and considering that this isn’t the only mystery/plot in the novel, it drove me crazy to have it referenced over and over before we were finally clued in. Clearly it was a tactic to keep you reading–and if it we knew why she went to jail the whole time, the book would have been less interesting and seemingly far-fetched from the get-go.
Without giving away the “secrets” of the book, Allison, the perfect high school senior, finds herself in a predicament. As she decides how to deal with the situation one night, she gets her younger sister Brynn involved, and Brynn is never the same and stops speaking to her. The circumstances surrounding Allison’s predicament aren’t all that believable and the book really lost credibility for me right there.
I also thought the writing in These Things Hidden was more elementary than in Gudenkauf’s first novel–too many characters were said to be “barrel chested” or “talked warmly,” etc. Her books are also written from various character’s points of view and the chapters flip-flop between characters, which can be interesting or get annoying, depending on the book. Bottom line…once all the plots and pieces of the mystery were laid out, the story was way too far-fetched for my taste.