Thursday, September 5, 2019

The Hidden Things by Jamie Mason: Reading Room Review

Originality is something that readers crave but don't often get. That doesn't mean that great reads don't exist without being considered original.  But, when I refer to originality, it is a reference to something unique, a story based on an idea other writers wish they'd thought of, a smack your head moment of creative recognition. Jamie Mason in The Hidden Things has achieved the pinnacle of uniqueness, starting with a brilliant idea and developing it into a story full of unexpected twists and consequences. The characters are some of the most interesting and distinctive you're likely to encounter, and they will all surprise you in some way. No one will surprise you more than fourteen-year-old Carly Liddell, smart and capable beyond her years. At the center of the tale is a painting, a 400-year-old painting, that has had an unusual journey since its theft as a part of the art heist of  paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. All the stolen paintings disappeared, and the fear is they will never resurface. But, in an extraordinary set of circumstances in a most ordinary setting, the most popular of online activity reveals one of the treasures. Social media meets ancient art in an explosion of secrets unearthed.

Carly Liddell doesn't notice the boy following her until she's on her doorstep ready to let herself in with her key. She attempts to slip inside her house and shut the door on him, but he pushes his way in, and a struggle ensues, one that doesn't go the way the intruder intends. An interior camera in Carly's hallway records an unbelievable maneuvering by Carly in which she frees herself from the boy and knocks him out with a boot kick to his jaw. However, by the time Carly runs to her neighbor's house and the police arrive, the intruder has fled the scene. The police use the video from the exterior and interior security cameras to post online and find their suspect. 

But, while celebrating Carly's narrow escape, she and her mother, Donna, realize that Carly's stepfather hadn't informed them of the interior camera in the foyer. The stepfather, John Cooper, has some explaining to do, and, yet, that's the least of his worries. The video of Carly's ninja capabilities has gone viral on YouTube, with people all over the country interested to see how this young teenager defeated her attacker. John's got a big problem with the popularity of the video because his painting that his wife had insisted on hanging in that hallway has a corner of it visible to viewers, and that painting is a 400-year-old stolen masterpiece worth millions. There are people who are looking for it and for John, and his new life and safety zone is in danger of becoming a minefield of danger if the wrong people see the video.

John has created his new identity carefully, and his wife and stepdaughter are clueless about the painting and his part in an art deal gone terribly wrong four years ago. People died because of the painting, and people have been waiting for some flicker of John, or Jonathan, to show. And, show it does through that small corner of a painting from a video inside an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood. First, John hears from a man whose homelessness has kept him drifting in and out of John's life for a handout, a man who knows way too much about John's previous life. Then, two other people, who have a vested interest in the painting and a sour taste from past dealings with John, show up in town. The man and woman both want the painting, and while their motivations are different, it's the personal stake that drives them. As John becomes more and more nervous about being discovered and held accountable for his past actions, Carly becomes more aware that her stepfather harbors some serious secrets. And, Carly also becomes cognizant of a strength inside her that started with an innate ability to save herself.  John and Carly engage in a cat-and-mouse game of high stakes and potentially deadly outcomes. Who ends up with the painting will bring both closure and new beginnings.

The Hidden Things is the first book I've read by Jamie Mason, but I already have a past book of hers in my TBR lineup, Three Graves Full, and I'm looking forward to her next one. Mason's writing is a smooth flow of building suspense, with sentence structure I appreciate as a former English teacher. Sentence structure can be an art form, a mixture of complex and simple sentences that move a story forward in its natural state. No awkwardness here. The dialogue does its job, too, revealing character and story. As I've already mentioned, this author's character development and creation of interesting characters is a large part of this reader's enjoyment of this book. I can't wait to read other books by Jamie Mason to see what captivating characters appear. I purposefully didn't describe all of the characters in this story because I wanted readers to come to three other of the major players in the story with the same delight and discovery as I did. As the story is told from the characters' different points of view, a complete picture is formed by the end, with each character building on knowledge as the reader does. With The Hidden Things, I think Mason has established herself as an awards contender and go-to author for thrilling reads.

I received a copy of this book from the author, and this review is an honest description and reaction to this amazing read. 

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