Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: 'The Hidden Girl' by Louise Millar

In Louise Millar's psychological thriller, "The Hidden Girl," thirty-six year old Hannah Riley and her husband, Will, move from London to Tornley Hall, an old house in the Suffolk countryside. Hannah gave up a job she adored because she wants to settle down and start a family; Will, a musician, still commutes to the city. The drastic change from the excitement of urban living, Hannah's obsession with becoming a mother, and Will's resentment of his wife's demands are putting a strain on their relationship. Adding to their stress is the fact that Will and Hannah have to whip their shabby home into shape: It needs a paint job; the garden is a mess; the boiler is dodgy at a time when the temperature outside is bitterly cold; and everywhere there is an unmistakable air of decrepitude and neglect.

The author's portrays her cast skillfully. Hannah is single-minded and kindhearted, but a bit too high-strung and controlling. Will cares very much about Hannah but is increasingly irritated by her frequent mood swings and insistence that he comply with her plans for their future. Millar creates two intersecting plot elements. One focuses on Will and Hannah's struggle to reconnect with one another. The other centers on Hannah's suspicion that something very odd is going on in the surrounding community.

As the story progresses, we wonder if Will and Hannah will find a way to rebuild their shaky marriage. In addition, Hannah is understandably curious and concerned about her neighbors' bizarre behavior. Some of the answers she seeks may be in photograph albums and other mementoes that provide clues about the house's former inhabitants and the dark secrets that they kept. "The Hidden Girl" is a poignant and suspenseful mystery in which the heroine walks a tightrope, knowing that any misstep could prove disastrous. The story grows in intensity until it culminates in a surprising and dramatic conclusion. In Hannah, Millar has created a resilient, tenacious, and resourceful protagonist who is determined to have the fulfilling life that she has dreamed of for so long.

Editor's note: This review was written by Eleanor Bukowsky and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right