A twisty thriller that will keep you hooked from the first drawing.
When Stephen King champions a book, you know it’s worth reading. As a creepy thriller with several ghostly moments, Hidden Pictures didn’t disappoint. This engaging and twisty tome is the second novel by Philadelphia-based author Jason Rekulak, whose previous book, The Impossible Fortress, was translated into 12 languages and nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Young Adult.
This is the story of Mallory, a former addict who is trying to put her life back together and takes a job as a live-in nanny for a well-to-do family in the suburbs. She gets along well with five-year-old Teddy Maxwell and his parents, until Teddy starts drawing eerie pictures of his imaginary friend, Anya. As a reader, you have to commend Mallory for sticking around after the first picture—I’d have left behind a cloud of dust!
Rekulak superbly weaves his unnerving tale by including illustrations of the pictures that Teddy draws within the chapters. Though there’s adequate description of the drawings, seeing them in the flesh makes the book all the more frightening and immersive.
The plot moves along at a fast pace and there were numerous points where I couldn’t wait to dive back into reading. Along with the central mystery behind Teddy’s pictures that Mallory tries to uncover, we’re also gradually fed breadcrumbs that unveil her past, as well as that of the strange Maxwell family. Mallory is a strong, likeable, and interesting main character, even though she sometimes makes questionable decisions. As we learn more about her motivations and emotional drivers, she becomes a protagonist that you just want to win. Her history of substance abuse also shines a light on how people get into trouble in real life, and might even encourage a little more empathy for those who are often judged and misunderstood.
This has all the right elements for a commercial psychological thriller that could easily be translated to screen, including a final twist you probably won’t see coming. Admittedly, some parts do require the suspension of belief to the point where it’s a little jarring, but I never felt cheated. The romantic subplot between Mallory and Adrian was light and enjoyable to read, and served as a welcome relief from the heavier scenes and themes dotted throughout the book.
The inclusion of Teddy’s drawings elevates Hidden Pictures from a good thriller to a great one. Anyone who likes a twisty page-turner with protagonists who question their sanity, toddlers who know something we don’t, and charming suburbs hiding dark secrets will love it.
Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.
Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: June 2022
RRP: $32.99 (trade paperback)