On August 31 at 10:33 am at a Welsh hospital there is a shooting. This opening description isn’t for the faint-hearted, it was all too easily visualised thanks to Charlie’s detailed reporting, but then she is a reporter on the local paper. Amongst the casualties are a few familiar faces to Charlie.
Emma Kavangh has managed to create a complicated structure that actually works. With the story told from the number of days preceding ‘the shooting’ from different character’s viewpoints it does sound like a nightmare to navigate, but once I realised that the timeline wasn’t chronological, the earliest date six days before the shooting, beyond a brief reminder of what part of the story was being told and by whom, which is clearly signposted at the start of each chapter, it was remarkably straightforward. Nor did knowing the ending at the beginning ruin the tension, Emma Kavanagh keeps the identity of the shooter under wraps despite some of the tale being told from his viewpoint.
Did I guess the identity? Not on your Nelly! I had been far too busy chasing several of the well-placed red herrings. If a shooting wasn’t enough there is another big mystery and that is what happened to Charlie’s friend Emily who had recently been found dead on the M4, the police suspect that she’d wandered onto the motorway whilst drunk but Charlie suspects his death may be linked to a boy who is in a coma in Ward 12 of the hospital. Using her skills as an investigative journalist she sets out to uncover the truth. The other narrators to the story are Imogen, half of a twin and a psychologist at the hospital and Aden who is a member of the armed police tracking the shooter who had been spotted at the hospital days before the shooting. The main characters are all linked to each other, some more tenuously than others and just in case there isn’t enough to concentrate on the author gives us a few detailed sub-plots to follow too.
Emma Kavanagh was a police and military psychologist for a number of years and unsurprisingly this is evident with the psychology of dealing with extreme situations featuring strongly during the storyline. My preference is for the psychological thrillers I read to be based on real-life situations and for that reason I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to read about a gunman which fortunately doesn’t feature in my life, but the author’s background made understanding how the firearms officers act and feel far more accessible than I expected. I really enjoyed this read with the only mild criticism being some over-blown writing in some parts which isn’t helped by the repetition of some of the phrases which added to the constant changing of character, time and sometimes the tense of the writing, most of which is written in the first person present tense, meant that this book could easily have tipped into the plain confusing rather than the satisfying read I found it to be.
I received a free copy of this tense, complicated but ultimately satisfying psychological thriller from Amazon Vine in return for my honest opinion. Hidden will be published on 23 April 2015. I am now going to read this author’s debut novel Falling that received many rave reviews last year.