Propelled by apt psychological metaphors and tantalizing clues about Eleanor’s early heartbreaks, this mystery holds its audience rapt. Juxtapositions of in-the-moment holiday failures and substance errors with those of bleak Christmases past help to keep the book’s timelines vibrant and disturbing; as much as Arabella’s secrets are intriguing, so are Eleanor’s family’s pains. The revelation of what happened to Eleanor when she was nine has as much to do with solving Arabella’s murder as it does with her own healing. Old wounds have to be reopened in service of the truth in the thrilling mystery novel The Hidden Hours.
Sara Foster treats the classic unreliable narrator trope with originality, painting Eleanor as enigmatic yet intriguing. The flashbacks between Eleanor’s past and present are never discombobulating and instead are weaved perfectly to create layers of storyline that all add up to one suspenseful yet satisfying ending. Adding to these swirling tensions is the stark contrast between the two settings of the rural Australian outback and bustling London, both described so eloquently that readers can vividly imagine being in each place. The Hidden Hours is evasive yet approachable, making it the perfect thriller to breeze through and then ponder about long after putting it down.
It’s a long time since I romped through a book this quickly ... an exciting and engaging psychological thriller ... This novel is intense, full of emotion and grief. Part way through, an additional layer is added as chapters which slowly reveal the traumas of Eleanor’s past are interspersed with the events of the present day; an easy rhythm is established as Foster moves effortlessly between two time frames ... There are so many themes explored, from childhood trauma to post-traumatic stress, the power of memories and the suppression of guilt, personal crisis, family drama and unhealthy secrecy, and each is treated with sensitivity ... It is easy to feel great empathy for the main character and indeed the characterisation of all the players in the novel is excellent—so too the veritable feast of language.
... absorbing ... What starts like a murder mystery shifts into an examination of the consequences of loneliness, rejection, and despair, as readers gradually find out—in a series of riveting flashbacks—why Eleanor is so traumatized by her past. A gripping read with a heroine who is both a frustrating and an empathetic character. No revelatory ending, but a fascinating character study.
... perceptive ... The sophisticated plot spins on corporate gossip, family betrayal, and the effect on children of being forced to keep their parents’ secrets. The naive Eleanor develops into an insightful young woman who comes to understand how multifaceted people can be. Fans of character-driven mysteries will be rewarded.