Sara Foster’s The Hidden Hours… ‘Keeping her secret may save her family. But telling it may save her life.’
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The Hidden Hours Synopsis:
Arabella Lane, senior executive at a children’s publisher, is found dead in the Thames on a frosty winter’s morning after the office Christmas party. No one is sure whether she jumped or was pushed. The one person who may know the truth is the newest employee at Parker & Lane – the office temp, Eleanor.
Eleanor has travelled to London to escape the repercussions of her traumatic childhood in outback Australia, but now tragedy seems to follow her wherever she goes. To her horror, she has no memory of the crucial hours leading up to Arabella’s death – memory that will either incriminate or absolve her.
As Eleanor desperately tries to remember her missing hours and uncover the events of that fateful night, her own extended family is dragged further into the dark, terrifying terrain of blame, suspicion and guilt.
Caught in a crossfire of accusations, Eleanor fears she can’t even trust herself, let alone the people around her. And soon, she’ll find herself in a race against time to find out just what happened that night – and discover just how deadly some secrets can be.
Having read high praise of Sara Foster’s earlier titles and in the mood for a crime thriller, I was excited to dive into The Hidden Hours.
The body floats towards waiting hands. A tiny crab scuttles down the slim line of one of those ghostly white legs and disappears into the gloom.
With haunting imagery Foster establishes tension from the opening pages, and casts a broad net of suspicion over many involved in the victim’s life. This includes Eleanor, the focus of Foster’s third person present tense narrative.
She shivers, hating being alone, hardly daring to look around the room in case there are shadows being cast by something other than the furniture. She squeezes her eyes shut and replays the evening again. She tries to fill in more of the night, but the harder she chases the memories, the faster they run, until everything is dark and empty. The void is terrifying.
As Eleanor’s childhood is revealed in traumatic flashbacks, I enjoyed Foster’s evocation of the Australian and London settings and their contrasts. While this historical insight added depth and garnered my sympathy, at times Eleanor’s passivity in the present strained my engagement. Similarly, some of the misdirection in The Hidden Hours felt laboured. While red-herrings are a vital ingredient in the mystery thriller genre, for me subtlety equates to quality.
Really effective however, were Foster’s inclusion of small snippets of peripheral character viewpoints at the beginning of chapters. They injected a sense of urgency and intrigue, while helping tie the largely domestic drama back to the police investigation.
Sara Foster’s The Hidden Hours is an accessible and atmospheric crime thriller, but not the crisp psychological page-turner I’d expected.
BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 3 / 5
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Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Crime-Detective
About the Author, Sara Foster
Sara Foster was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She has published four other novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath and All That is Lost Between Us. She lives near Perth with her husband and two young daughters, and is currently a doctoral candidate with Curtin University.
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* My receiving a copy of The Hidden Hours from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.