Millar, Louise - 'The Hidden Girl'
THE HIDDEN GIRL is a psychological thriller, in which a couple move into an old house in the country, unoccupied for sometime, and with some hidden secrets the locals would rather remain hidden. Hannah has given up her job as a press office for a human-rights charity, travelling around the world, and is fixated on making the house as presentable as possible as quickly as possible, so she and her husband Will can adopt. Will, is a musician working in a recording studio in London, but the plan is that he will eventually build a studio in the house, and work from home.
Plans immediately go awry, when a sudden snowfall hits, trapping Hannah in the house without landline or internet, and Will in London. Odd things start to happen. Hannah finds a paint tin knocked over in one of the rooms and lumps of congealed paint on the floor. Some of the rooms were locked when Hannah and Will first moved in, and when she finally manages to find the keys that open them, she discovers food and blankets, as though someone has been staying there. She senses someone else seems to be in the house, but all the rooms are empty. Objects disappear with no apparent explanation. And who is the strange woman called Elvie, and why do her neighbours apparently mistreat her? Meanwhile Will, trapped in London is having second thoughts about their move to the country, and finds himself hanging out with Claire, a single mother from the music studio, who just happens to live around the corner, and just happens to offer him a spare bed.
Gradually, the tension mounts up. Will finally manages to come home, and Hannah appears to settle somewhat. But when he goes back to London, things start to deteriorate again. Someone seems to be trying to unsettle Hannah, and to try to make sure that she and Will do not stay in the house, but why?
This is a well paced book, where the truth behind Elvie and the secrets of the locals are gradually revealed. Hannah is a likeable character, just managing to stay sane enough to hold on to her life and ambitions. Will is less likeable, rather narcissistic in some respects, but then his actions are a rather essential part of the plot development. The neighbours, who all know each other, don't quite manage to fall into the cliché of rejecting the newcomers for 'not being local', but they clearly have strong reasons for not wanting the couple to stay. I enjoyed the book, the sense of tension was nicely ramped up and up as the plot developed, and I definitely found myself voting for Hannah!
Michelle Peckham, England